Many VARs and others in the IT space have built up their successful businesses by adopting a take-no-prisoners approach to sales. When times get tough, it can be tempting to dedicate even more attention, energy, and resources than usual to the process of searching for and wooing new prospects.
However, although it may make sense to redouble or rejigger your sales focus in response to evolving circumstances in your business or in the market, it’s important to make sure that you’re allocating resources in a smart, targeted way. An across-the-board increase in the time and effort you dedicate to sales is unlikely to achieve the kind of bottom-line boosting impact you’re looking for.
So, how can you make sure that a bumped-up focus on sales won’t go to waste? The key lies in singling out the potential clients that are most likely to follow through and apportioning your sales resources accordingly. Here are a few guidelines to help you figure out which prospects are worth the most time and effort.
Make sure you’re fishing in the right pond. Most VARs can significantly improve their sales success rate by focusing on a relatively narrowly defined target market. You can make the most out of your finite sales resources by focusing on a select few sectors.
Develop a standard script for pre-qualifying prospective clients. Depending on your business model and product and service offerings, there are likely to be a handful of key questions that can help you separate serious buyers from “looky-loos” during the first conversation. Compile a list of questions that your sales staff can use to quickly determine which prospects stand the best chance of following through.
Don’t hesitate to push until you get a firm answer. It’s not uncommon for prospects to remain vague and non-committal during the early stages of the sales process. However, when this hesitance persists for weeks and weeks, the law of diminishing returns begins to set in. It’s not rude to push for a firm commitment after you’ve invested a fair amount of time and attention in a prospective client.
Create a prospect-ranking rubric that works with your business model. Taking into consideration your target demographic, the vagaries of your market, and your unique product and service offerings, work with your team to develop a company-wide ranking system that can be used to classify each prospect and define their place on the “probable-sales” spectrum. That way, every member of your organization will be able to keep tabs on the latest developments with just a quick glance.
Consider both obvious and not-so-obvious variables. Sometimes, the factors that are most commonly used to qualify a prospect—including budget, willingness, credit-worthiness, decision-making power—aren’t enough to tell the whole story. Although a ranking system can be very helpful in the process of classifying and categorizing prospects, some special cases may call for a more detailed analysis before you determine whether a buyer is serious.
Which techniques do you use to qualify prospective clients? Have you ever gotten the wrong read on a potential buyer? Tell us your story in the comments.