Conventional wisdom says to keep your pipeline filled with prospects. But generating leads and selling can be all-consuming, infringing on your work with clients. If, however, you focus on who will give you a fair hearing instead of trying to win business from everyone you come across, you can decrease your sales time, increase your close rates, and give your clients high-quality work.
The key is to identify which people are willing to listen to you. To help you, here are two types of buyers who are most likely to move forward—along with one prospect who won't.
Buyer Type 1: They Get It
Your best potential clients are those who "get it." They are already convinced of the benefits of the solution. They know they need outside help. (Probably because they used internal resources and now see the limitations.) All that needs to be done now is select the best resource.
Yes, there will be other firms vying for this opportunity. You will have to compete. But these folks are not hesitant about moving forward. They are ready to buy. They have urgency—our best friend in closing the sale.
Your next best step: be the benchmark. Your market strategy and branding has to show how you stand out in a crowded field. Your sales conversations now apply that power position to the prospect's situation. Your insights about them and their best solution will be compared to the other options. Those who influence the comparison control the decision.
Example: I received a call from someone who heard saw me coach in a group session. He liked the strategic approach, so my credibility was off the table. I gave him two things to think about—insights that never occurred to him. The three other folks he spoke to told him things he already knew. Because my ideas stood out, he compared those people to me. I became the benchmark. I had the inside track and won the assignment.
Buyer Type 2: Minor Set Backs Hold Them Back
Other great potential clients are those who are dedicated to the cause but are not getting what they want. They've had enough success to keep the effort alive but know something is holding them back.
The key here: minor setbacks. If you work with clients who have experienced major failures, be prepared for price resistance and hesitation to move forward. In these situations, folks start calculating if the overall initiative is worth the effort to revive. These buyers are still in the game and know they need outside help.
Your next best step: uniquely frame the problem. When these prospects understand what they need to fix, they feel more confident moving forward. Be sure to focus on identifying the problem, not giving your solutions. That's too much information too soon.
Example: a business owner called me after his sales manager tried motivating and coaching the sales teams. We talked about why the outcomes were not desirable, what could be improved on, and he was comfortable going ahead.
Never Pitch to These People
In your lead generation efforts, you will find buyers you know you can help. You see their challenge clearly and have helped others in the same situation. The problem is these folks don't know they need you.
It's tempting to approach these decision makers with key questions and your ideas. Here's why that's a big mistake: people have a natural defense against unsolicited advice. First, they are not convinced they have a problem. Your interaction is their first heads-up. Second, they are not committed to solving their problem. In light of competing priorities, there's no reason to put this issue at the head of the line.
Instead focus on general education. Give these folks information so they can decide if they have a problem. My favorite pass-alongs are research and studies from outside sources. When I send them, I include a note that says something like this: I saw this study, and it reminded me of challenges we all face from time to time. Hope you find it valuable as well.
Not only does targeted information educate these prospects, but it also keeps you top of mind. When they approach you, your credibility is off the table. Whatever you suggest will get a fair hearing.
Urgency Is Everything
There's a big difference between buyers seeing you as a credible resource and their willingness to use that resource. The deciding factor: urgency. It doesn't matter how you describe your value. If the buyer isn't ready to invest, your solutions are in the "nice to have someday" category. You must let these folks go. If you focus on buyers who are actively pursuing their goals, you save your effort for those clients you can best serve now.