In past posts, I’ve talked a lot about metrics within the traditional Sales Pipeline/Funnel, focusing on qualified opportunities. Today, too many of the sales people I speak to are “opportunity starved.” They don’t have a sufficient volume of opportunities to achieve their goal. One of the most important things sales people must do is focus on prospecting—finding and qualifying new opportunities.
One of the most important prospecting metrics is the % of Leads Converted To Opportunities— (Leads Qualified And Converted To Opportunities)/(Total Leads Prospected). For many people this is a frightening number–I’ve seen some people needing to prospect up to 100 prospects to find 0ne opportunity! Clearly, this is a problem—we need to find ways of shifting that number into our favor.
So how do we do this?
First, we need to start tracking the number–however bad it may be. Then we need to drill down and understand what is driving that number?
- Are we calling the right organizations?
- Are we calling the right people within those organizations?
- Are we finding them at a time when they have a need to buy?
- Do we have a compelling message they want to hear?
- Are we creating value in those initial calls? (Recognize, we may go through several calls to convert a lead to a qualified opportunity)
Analyze what you’ve done, look at what works and what doesn’t work. What you need to do is to see if you can shift the numbers to your favor. For example if you have to contact 10 prospects to generate 1 qualified opportunity (a 10% lead to conversion ratio), how can you move that to a 20% conversion ratio—this doubles the number of qualified leads you get from those 10 prospecting calls.
Understanding your sweet spot is critical–focusing on prospects within the sweet spot produces far bettter results. Yet, during tough times, sales people tend to do just the opposite–they relax their definition of the sweet spot, just trying to find something or someone who is willing to talk. While you may be having more conversations, the quality of those conversations goes down. If anything, in tough times, you should tighten your prospecting criteria, doing a far better job of targeting.
Are we contacting them at the right time? If you are focused on your sweet spot, 100 percent of them will have a need to buy at some time. They just may not have that need today or tomorrow. It may be next year, the year after, or later. It’s important that we intersect them at the right time–it’s also important that we nurture them, so that we can intersect them when they have a need to buy, even if that’s several years out.
Many of the marketing automation tools are very powerful in helping do this. They help you and your organization better assess the likelihood that specific customers have an iminient need. They also help in maintaining meaningful contact with the customer, nurturing and informing them, building the relationship until they have a need to buy. They are very powerful, if your organization has them, embrace them and leverage them to your advantage. If your organization doesn’t have these tools, figure out how to do something similar yourself. How do you keep in contact with prospects that don’t have a need to buy today, but will next year. Do you call them every once in a while, do you send them newsletters or emails with information they may be interested in. Figure out a way to identify when the time is right and how to nurture a prospect until the time is right.
If you are calling in your sweet spot at the right time, how do you continue to shift the numbers to your favor? Are you calling the right person, are you maximizing your impact on each call. Before you pick up the phone and make a call, or before you inflict your “standard script” on the person, do your homework. Do some research so that you can maximize the impact on the person—can you find their profile in LinkedIn? Does that give you insight into who they are and how you might more effectively connect? What’s happening with their company–look at their web site, look at their press releases. Are there things happening with the company that can help shape your conversation with the person? What’s happening in their industry, with their customers, and competition? If you are focusing on your sweet spot, you probably already know this.
No call should be “cold,” even if it’s your very first interaction with the prospect. Doing your homework, doing some nominal level of research will start improving your ability to connect in a meaningful way on that first call.
If you aren’t tracking your % of Leads Converted To Opportunities, you don’t know where to start in shifting the numbers in your favor. You are just guessing, and you are wasting your time. Track these numbers, then analyze them, look for ways to improve, shifting the numbers in your favor.