Which Prospects to Pursue & The Importance of Qualifying

Posted by LinkedSelling in B2B Lead Generation & Sales Development

Let’s talk about what a good, quality sales opportunity is and how to spot them in prospects - and what happens at every stage of the client relationship if you don’t.

If you could minimize unqualified prospects at every stage of the client relationship, from top of the funnel marketing, to sales, to fulfillment and retention, it would allow you to focus on the people who will most likely make those investments of time and money a positive ROI.

This is why qualifying is essential. Qualifying helps you understand the probability of closing a sale - and saves you a lot of upfront.

Keep reading to discover to discover:

  • How and why it affects the company as a whole, as well as the client, at every stage of the client relationship, alongwith WHY so many companies miss this crucial fact

  • And 5 specific reasons that having and sticking to a specific list of prospect qualifications is essential to increase your sale numbers and for business growth.

Qualification At Every Stage

A big reason why a lot of our clients come to us is because they realize they aren’t getting high quality prospects in the door consistently. 

This is a very common issue, and when not resolved, an issue that can potentially disrupt the entire company at every level of the client relationship, from first opt-in for content, to speaking with the sales team, to working with the prospect ongoing.

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Let’s take a deeper look...

It starts with the initial “opt-in” where the client first requests some content (and where our marketing and outreach teams are engaged in generating leads). At this stage, you can see how big your prospect pool is. You got 100 downloads of your ebook! That’s great, that means 100 new prospects, right?

This is when looks can be deceiving. 

Because if you don’t have a way to attract the right prospects, you might as well be selling on the corner of the busiest street in your city. 

In other words, you might be getting traffic seeing your sign posts, but it doesn’t mean you’re priming yourself (or your team) for high quality sales opportunities that will contribute to the company growth long term.

At this stage, you want what we call “MQL’s” or “Marketing Qualified Leads.” We loosely follow the BANT formula to define which prospects are “MQL worthy” for our sales team to pursue - and to further qualify.

Which leads us into the next step of the client relationship, sales. 

Quality is extremely impactful at this stage, and it’s where we move from a prospect who looks good on paper, who has the tangible numbers we look for, to understand the “intangibles” of a quality prospect. These “intangibles” are things like culture fit, mindset, maybe they’ve been burned too many times and won’t buy - ever.

For example, knowing what to look for in a prospect during the sales process (both the tangibles and intangibles) helps you avoid scenarios like this one...

Has it ever happened to you or to your sales team that you expend a lot of energy following-up, making phone calls, and essentially spending time and resources to move prospects through the sales process, only to see that they don’t buy. Granted, this is expected, as not everyone in your pipeline will buy (research shows that only 3% are ready to buy at any one time).

The impact of qualification doesn’t end at sales though… it continues throughout the entire relationship into fulfillment as well.

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For example, it’s not uncommon to hear from the fulfillment team a month or two after you finally close a new client… that the client is incredibly difficult to work with! The micromanaging, the expectation of what seems like nearly 24/7 communication, and on top of that, they don’t like your rates. 

Qualifying helps with this, too. When you can choose who you want to work with, you can focus on the buyers who will offer the highest ROI and offer the highest lifetime client value. Doing so results in a positive ROI in terms of time, money, and mental and emotional bandwidth for your team, which contributes to higher productivity, better results for the client as well, and increased client retention.

It creates a cycle. When you have great targeting and focus on pursuing quality prospects, you not only have a smoother sales cycle, your team works better, they’re more focused, you get better results for the client, the client is likely to stay around longer, increasing your Lifetime Client Value, and more to likely to send referrals your way. Win-win-win!

Prospect qualification is nothing new, but let’s dive even deeper into WHY it’s not just important, but critical for company growth.

Why Prospect Qualification is Critical for Company Growth

Keeps you focused on the real opportunities

Maybe the most important part of an intense focus on qualification is that it keeps your sales team focused on the real opportunities that will go straight to the bottom line, increase revenue, and enhance the overall client relationship through the entire process.

To do that, remember that not all prospects - or opportunities - are created equal. Your sales team must treat each and every prospect differently… and that means getting to know them. It means prioritizing the ones who have the best chance of becoming a good client. It starts with the basic parameters you want to see on paper, company size, budget, urgency, timing, etc. And then as you speak to them, you’ll realize more of the “intangibles”. You must understand what that prospect looks like and what they really need. You do that through effective communication and really getting into the weeds.

Your prospect, many times, doesn't tell you straight out what they need. As an expert in your field, you likely know what will help your prospect, even when they think it’s something else. This is when proper communication and an effective sales mindset - becoming an advisor, not a salesperson - will help balance that line and help your team discover who is really a good prospect or not.

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So an example of the “intangible” criteria that makes a good prospect for us at LinkedSelling, is say we’re talking to a prospect in the IT industry. We’ve worked with a lot of people in IT and we know we can get results for them. Looking at their company, it seems they have revenue, the budget, and they have an interest to set something up sooner rather than later. On paper everything looks great. This definitely seems like a prospect worth pursuing. 

As the sales team speaks with them however, we realize that the target audience they want to go after is law firms. That changes things. We’ve worked with and have seen results targeting law firms, but we know from experience that using the strategy and the platforms we intend to use, will make getting the results for this IT prospect a challenge. This is a red flag for us.

Is this a good sales opportunity? Perhaps, but we must consider both the qualifications that are on paper - and off - if we want to see the best results and keep them on as a client long-term. 

When you stay focused on the prospects who offer the best opportunities for company growth, you keep your team focused on what really matters throughout the entire process, from marketing, to sales, to client relationships during fulfillment. The quality of the client makes a difference on every part of the process. 

Working with the right clients only makes marketing better (better response due to better targeting and dialed-in messaging means lower ad costs), it means a smoother sales cycle, and it means an enhanced client relationship. This increases efficiency and productivity within the team, and gives everyone the best chance of hitting their numbers and meeting their goals.

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Makes the Decision Making Process Smoother Across The Board

As mentioned above, when you have a quality prospect, you are able to really understand them and their problems. You understand how they make decisions, where they are in the buyer journey, what factors they’re considering, what they’ve tried, what it means for them if they don’t solve the problem… and you know this because YES you speak to each prospect individually, but you also speak to many prospects with similar problems. 

In other words, when you work with a quality prospect, you understand the same types of patterns over time and it allows your team to create a sales cycle around the same type of buyer journey. 

This not only creates a smoother sales process for all involved, but many times, it can reduce the length of your sales cycle, which will positively impact your ROI. The faster you get deals moving through the pipeline, the more opportunities your sales teams can work on… and the more they can close.

For example, if you clearly understand the buyer cycle because you’re familiar with these repeated patterns, it’s easier for you to make decisions on who to prioritize in the sales process and how. Take email follow-up… if you know that a prospect isn’t going to consider buying until Q3, you can immediately put their information inside of a drip sequence that will NOT push the sale, but just keep you top of mind in the meantime. You can prioritize another prospect who shows more urgency and exert more effort on more immediate opportunities.

What this does is it allows you to step off the cycle of “pushy salesperson”. It creates a smoother cycle for both your sales reps and the prospect. Setting the expectation upfront, gives a clearer picture of how the prospect will move through the funnel, so there’s no need to push our agenda or our timeline. For example, let’s look outside the sales cycle, take our internal social media ads… having this type of qualification allows us to prioritize the targeting and the ad sets that will contribute to company growth long-term. It makes the decision process much easier when we know exactly what metrics we want in potential prospects.

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Optimizes Company Resources

It goes without saying… Your time is valuable - to you, and to the company.

If you have an effective way to measure who is qualified before spending time in a lengthy sales cycle trying to overcome objections - when the main objections are that either it’s the wrong time, they don’t have money, or they really don’t need your services anyway… you can avoid pursuing prospects who offer no promise of becoming clients in the near future.

Note that, as stated above, qualifying prospects doesn’t only optimize the time and resources of your company during the sales cycle, it happens at every single touchpoint, from top-of-the-funnel marketing, to client fulfillment. It maintains a streamlined focus on the people you know you can help - and instead of asking your team to switch gears for every new client, they optimize their time by getting better and better at what we already know works. 

If you have an effective way to measure each potential client that comes your way, you can identify (and avoid) the tire-kickers (those looking for the cheapest option), the time wasters (the prospects who are unable to make a decision) and the dreamers (potential clients with unrealistic expectations).

This eliminates the need to follow-up with people who won’t respond for two months, it enables your team to only put effort into activities that will move the needle, and it makes everything go more smoothly.

>>> Speaking of, if you’re interested in another way to optimize company resources, read this post about how to decide when to outsource or when to build teams in-house. <<<

You Claim Market Authority Based On Exclusivity

This is another idea many people don’t speak of - and it’s a subtle psychological nuance. When you don’t pursue just anyone, you immediately create a feeling of exclusivity. Of course, this probably won’t be the factor that closes the sale for you, but being obviously choosy also shows your prospect that you take this seriously.

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You’re not about to work with just anyone, you value your time and your team’s expertise, and you, like them, are looking to work with specific kinds of people and companies. This automatically puts your company on a different level psychologically than companies who will work with anyone who comes their way.

It also enhances the idea that you and your team know exactly who will be a good fit and pursuing ONLY those leads has a reverse psychology effect for your prospect. This allows you to expense the company resources, whether that be a team member with a specific skill set, the time, the manpower, where needed. For example, we had a new client we knew would really open the doors to more similar clients, so we needed to fulfill in an outstanding way. We put our top people on the job to create a white paper, build out the funnel, and to manage the ad campaigns because we carefully qualified the client and we knew it would pay off (it has!). 

The result? We have further clarified that we want to work with more clients like that and we know exactly how to get the results they were after.

>>> A large part of this is knowing how to create authority.
Click here to learn The #1 Factor to Consider When Building Authority in Any Industry. <<<

Keep A Steady Aim On The Goals And Relevant KPI's

Qualification also allows you and your entire company to have a goal to shoot towards. You know exactly what will work, and what will contribute most to the bottom over time. This keeps everyone accountable and goal/KPI oriented. 

If you know what success looks like, you can go after it. Pursuing only those activities that contribute to your goals and KPI’s gives you a clear image of what success looks like. It also offers predictability and control, which are two of the core facets of growth in any company.  

Your KPI’s will naturally start with the tangible criteria… how big their company is, what revenue their making, is this person a decision maker, etc. Staying focused on these tangible KPI’s results in a higher quality of “intangible” metrics… like whether or not the prospect will actually be a good client to work with long-term.

For example, the more $3MM IT companies you talk to, the clearer a baseline you create for what works. It allows you to prioritize (and to fully realize what the opportunity is), while enabling your team with the knowhow they need in order to handle different kinds of opportunities.

This is how we focus on what clients we can retain, upsell, what sales opportunities are out there for the sales team, and what keeps us aimed at the opportunities that will contribute to company growth.

To Sum Up

In order to meet your sales goals, and truly benefit the company in terms of business growth, it's critical that a sales team have a defined qualification process in place. This will not only enable the team to focus on the prospects who have the highest potential of becoming clients, it also decreases the sales cycle, makes sales discussions smoother, and saves time and resources for both the company and the client. 

Can’t fit a round peg in a square hole as they say. It’s best to identify who is a good prospect as early on in the sales process as possible.

Finally, be aware that your criteria can change - in fact you should expect it to as you continually improve your sales process and continually define the markets and people you should work with to see the highest Lifetime Value.

If you’d like to learn more about how we work with clients to fill the pipeline, and how we qualify them on your behalf, lets talk! Schedule a call below.

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