After you have identified your prospects, it’s important to understand that all customers are not created equal. Some customers are willing to form business partnerships and grow with you over time while others are just looking to do business with whoever offers the lowest price. Some prospects may never be able to help you or your company achieve your business goals, or their goals may not be strategically aligned with yours, even if you really like doing business with them. Choosing customers carefully will save you time and energy and help you meet you goals. You don’t want to spend several hours writing up a proposal for one of your prospects only to find out they were never genuinely interested (Cherry, 2006).
Think back to the sales funnel and the idea that you start out with a large pool of leads and end with a much smaller number of customers. While it is important to cast your nets broadly when you’re rounding up leads, you’ll work most effectively if you weed out the likely from the unlikely early on. You can qualify your leads to determine whether they are legitimate prospects by discovering whether they have the willingness and the ability to make a purchase. Consider these four questions to help you meet your qualifying objectives:
- Does he or she have the resources to purchase the product or service? (Money) Sometimes knowing the answer to this question involves contacting the lead and asking some questions. Other times, you can figure this out by doing company research before ever getting in touch with the lead. You wouldn’t have tried to make a major sale to Circuit City just before they went out of business because they wouldn’t have had the resources to buy.
- Does he or she have the authority to make the buying decision? (Authority) You can try to sell candy to a five-year-old, and they will probably want to buy it, but unless you can convince their parents to make the purchase you don’t have a sale. Similarly, your lead at a company may love your product and tell you it’s exactly what their company needs but if they are not the person with the power to buy, they are not a qualified prospect. This doesn’t mean you should write the company off, but you’ll have to figure out how to get in touch with the person who can make the buying decision.
- Does your prospect have a need? (Need)This is the most basic thing to figure out about your prospect. There is no use pursuing another individual in the company or delivering a persuasive presentation if there is nothing you can do for this person or organization. If you sell new cars, and your lead is satisfied with the car they bought three months ago, you don’t have anything to offer them.
- Do you have access to the influencer or decision makers? (Access) This is relatively straightforward in B2C sales, but in B2B, it can be hard. If you wanted to sell your clothing line to Macy’s, you couldn’t go downtown to your local branch and pitch your product. Large organizations have layers of personnel, and it’s challenging to ferret out the people whose can influence the buying decision. Think about whether you can reasonably access these individuals.
This qualifying technique is called MANA (money, authority, need and access).
Managing Your Prospect Base
So you’ve qualified your prospect and you have their information in your CRM system. It would be nice if that were all it took. But your CRM is only a way of tracking and organizing customer information; making an action plan, a specific plan of approach, for each customer is up to you and you won’t make any sales if you don’t act. After qualifying, you might have some prospects with a clear need, buying authority, and a fairly high level of interest, while others seem uncertain. If you classify your prospects as “hot,” “warm,” and “cold,” you can prioritize by devoting the most initial energy to your top potential customers (Brown, 2009). No two customers are alike. This means that even though you’ve qualified prospects A and B and determined that they do have needs you think you can meet, those needs will be different, possibly drastically so. It’s a good idea to begin your action plan by conducting a careful needs analysis—that is, what specific problems is this prospect facing and how can my product help solve those problems?