This comic makes me cringe. Being a landscape designer in the past, I know Ted’s pain well; as I’m sure you do.
You and your sales people shouldn’t have to waste so much time pursuing bad fit prospects or those who ultimately won’t do business with you.
I know this is a huge frustration for many of you. But it doesn’t have to be.
To avoid this you will need to implement a framework your entire team can use to effectively qualify new leads that come in the door.
With formal guidelines in place you can then train staff and hold them accountable to your qualifying standards.
If qualifying is left solely to the discretion of your sales people you’ll end up with handfuls of bad fit clients and frustrated team members.
I’ve seen first hand how this plays out. On one extreme you may have a rainmaker – usually the owner of the company – who will chase anything and everything. The other extreme is where the Design Diva resides, who is only interested in the unique projects that appeal to him/her and his/her overblown ego.
Qualify prospects using the BANT(+P) framework
Some of you may already be familiar with the BANT methodology for qualifying sales leads based on Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing.
BANT isn’t perfect, but at least it provides a basic framework your sales team can work from. It’s better than NOTHING, which is the methodology I see most companies in our industry using to qualify new sales leads.
For a deeper dive into the BANT methodology check out this recent article from HubSpot. I’m just going to scratch the surface in this article (and add a P to the framework).
Qualify for Budget
Please know that I throw up a little bit every time I hear you say, “They (i.e.- the prospect) wouldn’t tell me their budget”.
That’s because you do a lousy job asking for it.
I’ve been there. It’s because I was uncomfortable talking about money, especially during the first conversation. I suspect it’s the same for many of you.
As Blair Enns says about money (Pricing Creativity, 2018, pg. 62), "Those who do not talk about it do not make it".
You don’t need an exact number; instead, get a range your prospect is comfortable with. Here’s how my buddy, Jody Shilan, recommends getting a budget range from your prospects.
Qualify for Authority
I learned this lesson quickly in my B2B sales career: If you’re not talking to the decision maker then you are wasting your time.
Be very careful how much time you expend on someone at the bottom of the decision making ladder. They’ll be eager to spend someone else’s money to move their personal agenda forward, but at the end of the day, they won’t have the authority to actually hire you.
Says Mr. Homeowner, “Give our HOA a quote on an extra application of mulch.”
Says You, “I’d be happy to… after you run it past your HOA board and at their request.”
You may not always start at the top of the decision making ladder – especially in B2B sales – but try to move up as quickly as possible.
Qualify for Need and Timing
Does your prospect have a problem that your company is uniquely positioned to solve? How important is addressing this problem?
I remember my first landscape design commission when I started my own company. It was a memorial garden for a family who lost their daughter in an accident 10 years earlier.
This wasn’t a “nice to have” project, it was a “must have”.
Need and timing go hand in hand.
You’ll need to figure out how urgent their need really is, including when they want you to start (and finish).
Did Mr. Homeowner’s incompetent son just kill their entire front yard with Round-Up? Is a giant tree limb about to fall on their house? Or is this a project that can start in three months time?
Before you waste a lot of time on a prospect be sure to find out how important this work is to them and how urgent they want it. Don’t chase it if you get a sense that they are window shopping or have an unreasonable timeline.
Read the HubSpot article I mentioned earlier for a list of really good questions to probe for need and timing.
Do they fit your Positioning
Let’s add an important P to this framework: The P being Positioning.
The stronger your positioning the easier it will be to qualify prospects.
Show me a company with frustrated sales people chasing their tails and one thing is certain: They are poorly positioned.
In other words, they don’t know who to say “no” to so instead say “yes” to everyone.
- Is this project/account located within our Target Account Boundary?
- Is this prospect requesting a service that fits our core competency?
- Does this prospect fit our ideal customer profile?
Here's a final suggestion: Require your sales people to log this first qualifying conversation in your CRM software, referencing each part of the BANT(+P) framework in their notes.
This is how you will hold people accountable and continually coach them on effectively qualifying your new leads.
This is exactly what we do at Landscape Leadership. It's become a simple – yet extremely valuable – habit. It can be the same for you.
No more chasing your tails, my friends.
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