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Sales Solutions
Prioritizing Opportunities vol 4, issue #12_
January, 2008

In a previous issue, we spoke generally about prioritizing our time so that we use it more efficiently and effectively to accomplish what we need to. In this issue, we get down to specifics of how to prioritize potential opportunities - leads - that come your way, or that you uncover, so that you invest your time in such a way as to maximize your income.

First, let's define what a lead is. defines "lead" (in the business sense) as "an indication of potential opportunity"., the CRM provider, goes a bit further with its definition: "A lead is a prospect or potential opportunity - a person you met at a conference, who expressed interest, or someone who filled out a form on your company's web site." I like both these definitions - both for what they include, as well as for what they don't include. What they don't include are "cold" prospects. What's are "cold prospects"? You know them. You've seen them. Retreads who couldn't buy two years ago, still couldn't buy last year, and probably won't be buying this year; names from a list your company purchased; names you were given by someone at a networking event without an offer to pave the way; names from trade shows, the call center, your company's web site, etc., accompanied by nothing more than just a few comments about which product or service the person was calling - certainly little or no indication whatsoever as to the quality of those names. These are "cold prospects". They don't do us any good. Yet there are organizations that distribute to the sales team these "opportunities" whose chances of ever materializing into anything worthwhile are between slim and none. And slim just left town. Any of you who've seen the movie, Glengarry Glen Ross, know exactly what I mean. There are leads, and there are leads (the Glengarry leads). Those are the ones we want.

Think about your own experience. Have you not found, as I have, that leads from most traditional sources typically come in a 60/30/10 ratio. 60% will be cold or long-term (those in the preliminary stages, not having assembled a buying team or gotten funding; tire kickers, and consultants), 30% will be warm (have some, but not all, of the qualities of a fully-qualified prospect), and 10% will be hot (have a pressing need, the money to pay for a solution, and the willingness to do so). Since we all have a limited amount of time with which to work, we want to prioritize that time to get the biggest bang for our buck. The question is, how do you determine which are the "hot" leads - the ones in which you'll be willing to invest lots of time - and which are the "warm" ones, in which you'll be willing to invest some time - but proportionately less?

Not surprisingly, you determine it by asking a few very specific questions - those that will uncover the following:

  1. What's the degree of interest? Is this person more than just a curious tire kicker or researcher?
  2. If so, does the level of interest rise to that of a need or want?
  3. If so, how high of a priority is it for both your contact AND for the decision-maker to satisfy that need?
  4. If it's high, is there money budgeted or available?
  5. If there is, are they willing and prepared to spend it - now?

If - and only if - you get positive answers to every one of these questions, do you have a hot lead. If you get a negative answer to the first question, clearly you have a cold lead. Backburner it. If you have a positive answer to the first question, but negative answers to any of the others, you have a warm lead. The more positive answers you get as you go along, the better qualified - the "warmer" - the opportunity is. But beware - simply racking up positive responses doesn't necessarily mean the opportunity is worth pursuing. I may be interested in your product, I may even need it, but if getting it is not a priority for my boss, or if I can't get the money to fund it, we'll both be spinning our wheels. So tread carefully with warm leads. Don't ignore them. But be very disciplined in how much time and effort you devote to them.

Action Item:

This is the time of the year when many of us reflect on the past year - our successes and our failures. What we accomplished and what we didn't. A time when we commit to improvements in the coming year. If you're one of those people - or even if you're not - go someplace for a couple of hours where you'll be free of disturbances (yes, New Yorkers, such places do exist!). Arm yourself with nothing more than a pen and paper, and a clear mind. Draw a line down the middle of the page. On the left side, make a list of all the things that have been bothering, annoying, frustrating, or aggravating you. On the right side, come up with a creative way or two to deal with each issue constructively. When you get back to the office the following Monday (or your home - this works in our personal lives as well), begin implementing what you wrote. You'll soon find yourself feeling less stressed, more relaxed, more in control, and - eventually - more productive.

Good Selling!

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