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How To Create A Predictable Sales Pipeline (2/2)

How To Create A Predictable Sales Pipeline (2/2)

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After a successful transition from MQL to SQL, it’s important to include your sales team in your qualification process. But how to qualify your leads?Let’s take a look at this simple 4-step method..

1. Know your customer profile

Ideal customer profile

How are your leads similar to your Ideal Customer Profile?

Make sure that you totally understand who are your customers and where to find them. Otherwise, targeting the wrong segment may cause you a huge waste of time and money, ending up with the increased customer acquisition cost.

Maturity of your target company

Firstly, keep in mind that the company’s maturity says a lot about its manner of doing business. Secondly, quite often the maturity of your target company says about its capacity to pay for your product or services.

If you’re working with highly sophisticated systems, designed for middle-enterprise companies, then you’re probably will skip the companies established just 4 months ago.

What is their company size?

It’s not a secret that startups and enterprises have different needs and budgets. Remember that when creating your buyer persona profile.

Hence, startups, mid-size companies and enterprises use very different approaches of selection their third-party vendor or choosing another product covering corporate needs.

In case with the startups the structure of decision-making is more transparent and it’s more likely you’ll find the C-level guy you need just browsing the LinkedIn. In case with the 10000+ employee capacity in the majority of cases the only way to be selected among your competitors is a public tender.

2. See the difference between interest and intent


Do they REALLY need your service?

If it’s not their top priority, there’s a chance for failure for you, especially on the stage of discussing price and implementation strategy.

On the contrary, if they’re going to implement that type of product/service you propose in any case, they will do it sooner or later.

Why are they looking for a solution right now?

Is it connected with expansion or they are just not satisfied with the current solution/service provider? In any case, it is a good indicator of whether it is a top priority for a company or can be done later.

When are you going to close a deal/launch a product?

As an addition to the previous question, if your lead is looking for a solution ASAP, it’s a good opportunity to close the deal within a short time.

On the contrary, if they want to implement certain features/introduce your product in their system within the next 2-3 years, they are just investigating and probably not ready to move further at this time. However, it doesn’t mean that you should stop communication, just keep it in your mind while you think about your sales quota.

What do they know about your company?

Quite important. Shows that your lead is really interested in your company and services. Try to identify what you lead finds attractive among the similar service providers/products as yours and put your advantages in the first line.

What are their expectations for the service provider/product?

Don’t hesitate to ask about the expected level of quality and service, about the expected functionality of the product - this will help you to prepare a business proposal they can't refuse.

Besides, it’s quite important if you’re planning to run a long-term partnership

What are their challenges? Why they’re considering a new service provider/product?

The advantages of your service/product you should mention first could be quickly defined from the pains your lead is having now. Gently try to ask him about their past experience with the service provider, e.g., who failed, or about a product with the lack of game-changing features. Wake up, this is your big moment! Listen carefully when facing objections and catch your chance to shine.

It also can be connected with some specific requirements, e.g.legal, payment methods, deadlines, expertise and so forth.

3. Are you selling to the right person?

What do you mean you're not the decision maker?

Who is responsible for the final decision? Which departments are involved?

Remember, that the bigger the company is, the more people are involved in a decision-making process. Make sure that you’ve got a more or less clear vision of the decision-making structure in the targeted company. Different departments have different business challenges, and if your solution meets their needs it is a good signal for you.

What objectives you can expect from the Decision Makers?

Don’t hesitate to ask for feedback from your prospect. It’s better to know the potential objectives and prepare your argument on time.

4. Budget and Differentiation

What's your rate? Whats your budget?

Past experience with a similar service provider or product

If there was any past experience with similar product/ service providers, then certainly you should dig in to understand what happened before you came along. Be prepared to face the situations where your lead would be expecting from you something you are not used to do, just because of their past experience.

Don’t panic, this does not mean that you should do the same, just be sure that your approaches are the most right thing for this particular lead in this particular situation.

Why did they stop working with another company? Keep in mind the mistakes of your previous competitor.

How much do they plan to spend?

All business people can speak this language - Money Language. The most enchanting word for both sides here is Budget, with a capital B. It’s always extremely important for the customer to stay within it, regardless of the maturity of the customer’s company.

Two main rules to avoid awkward situations here: always ask your leads about the approximate budget before you sign the contract, and always ask what would happen in case of over-budgeting.

Those leads who vanish after you stand your ground defending the facts while discussing an estimation - let them go, they’ve just saved your time and nerves.

Warren Buffet said: «No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant». In estimates, it works pretty much the same.

What’s next?

When you have all the lead details on the table, it’s time to create your own score system. It works as follows: sort the answers and rank them from 1 to 3 (for example), depending on the questions mentioned above in this article. Let’s say, your lead is sure about the budget, timeframes and the scope of work, then it gets three points - one per each question. We strongly recommend you to design your own scoring system, choose the most relevant questions applicable to your case.

Let’s imagine we have a little bit more complicated scoring system combining a series of questions so that the maximum score would be 10. Here it’s time to define the minimum score you’re likely to accept to move on with this lead. Let it be 6. Those leads below the 6 points are unqualified leads, leave them to grow and move them to your warm-up campaigns. It may happen these leads will come back to your pipeline in several months, then score them again.

Those scored 6 and above become qualified leads. Now it’s time to work with them more properly, move them to the next stage of your sales funnel and try to hold their interest at the same level.

To sum up, the more you know about your lead, the more predictable patterns you can expect.

In the next article, we’ll highlight some strategies on how to nurture your leads who didn’t overcome your threshold and convert them into paying customers.

What’s the difference between MQL and SQL and how to identify your MQLs?

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