Throughout any sales career, it is practically predetermined that one will encounter several leads throughout a spectrum of quality. This spectrum includes leads ranging from a completely clueless prospect to a hot buyer who is ready to immediately send over a purchase order. The desired end result in all of these circumstances is the same, but the path to get there can be extremely different.

Before diving in, it is important to start with a few assumptions, as it would be quite difficult to cover the entire spectrum of leads within a brief article. This will specifically cover two types of standard leads, one being inbound and the other outbound. The first scenario will touch on a situation in which one receives an inbound lead that downloaded a white paper for their solution. It can be assumed that while there is an interest in the product, the prospective client will also be evaluating a number of other solutions within that competitive space. Secondly, the article touches on a scenario where one would have to create a lead from scratch and generate an interest in the product. In this scenario, the client will not have heard of the proposed solution and the salesperson is responsible for building rapport from scratch.

This will strictly cover initial touch points. Later content can elaborate on for further touch points in the sale cycle.

INBOUND

These are the modern equivalent of gold in the world of sales. These are the people raising their hands, asking to be informed about how your product can help them. All you need to do is tell them your product is great and provide a price quote, right? Not quite…

There are a few critical elements that you need to capture on your first communication with an inbound lead. Most of these questions will be open-ended, which helps drive more information on the sale cycle. There are a few different ways to linguistically approach specific scenarios, but the main questions you need to be answered are as follows:

  1. What caused you to start your search for this type of platform?

This is a critical question to understand because it helps uncover the first sign of pain. It will also often uncover a lot of other relevant information about this project. Typically, you can drive response to determine if this was a personal interest or a business investigation to implement a solution.

  1. Do you have any experience with these types of platforms?

Again, this is an extremely valuable question to pose for many reasons. It helps uncover if they need a consultative approach due to lack of experience or if they need a more direct and to the point response because they already know what they need. Use their responses to this question to uncover if there is a preferred competitive solution. If they have used a system in the past, why are they looking away from it now?

  1. Is there a timeframe in which you are hoping to see a solution implemented?

This one is pretty standard and self-explanatory. It helps provide information on how serious the prospective client is for this project, and what their expectations are on implementation.

  1. Who, besides yourself, is impacted by the implementation of this solution?

Now if you didn’t have your answer on stakeholders before, you will get it now. This is really where you have the opportunity to uncover what other individuals need to be involved in the project. This is the best opportunity you will have to explain why their higher-ups need to be in on the calls or next steps moving forward. If they are not power and claim that they are the end all be all for the project, push back. You will absolutely NEED other stakeholders involved in projects to consistently close more business.

From here you will have a lot of the critical information surrounding the project. It is time for you to suggest next steps. Next steps will be different for every company, but make sure to include all stakeholders in that next activity. Whether it be a proposal review, demonstration, or onsite activity; be sure to get that buy-in from everyone involved.

OUTBOUND

Salespeople often make the mistake of assuming outbound leads are inherently less valuable than inbound. While an outbound prospect may be slightly more difficult to navigate, they certainly have value and you can almost guarantee that you are the first vendor they are speaking to on the matter.

Having success in outbound prospecting really comes down to building out the right list of contacts to pitch your products to. It is absolutely critical to hunting these leads with precision, we are not shooting far and wide here. Each contact you reach out to should have a specific reason and talk track as to why you are contacting them individually. Really dig into any connections you may have here. Is there a parent/sister company that had similar problems? How about a competitor in their space? Find a valid reason to reach out, and be prepared to simply explain your reasoning for the reach out.

Now, these individuals may not always be the right people to close the business, but there still needs to be a reason you reached out to them. Something cultivating enough to grab their ear, or have them serve as a warm introduction to the right point of contact. In terms of prospecting, always shoot for two levels higher than your ideal client advocate. For example, if you are selling a product that will benefit maintenance technicians, you should skip over the tech and maintenance manager and reach out to the person directly above them on the organization’s chart. The reasoning behind this is, simply put, direct supervisors, are extremely unlikely to admit a fault in the current process. Because admitting a fault, for them, means claiming that the way they are handling things today is not efficient. Humans hate admitting they are wrong, especially to salespeople. If you go two levels up, they are much more likely to open up and admit to existing pain within the organization.

After finding the correct contact, the first critical step is establishing trust. Without establishing trust, you will not be able to successfully pitch any product. There may be a few lucky situations, but this is a step that cannot be circumvented. One of the key ways that you can establish trust is by telling a success story. This is not some random, canned success story that you regurgitate regardless of industry/title, this absolutely must be specific. You need to find a reason why they care.

Once trust has been gained, the path to the sale or appointment is ultimately similar. You will now have access to an advocate, and that is half the battle. Obviously, there is a ton of detail surrounding outbound and inbound sales, but hopefully, some people found this tidbit to be helpful.

-Patrick Carroll-

Patrick Carroll is an Account Executive at Fluke Digital Systems. He is responsible for helping connect maintenance departments to the digital age of efficient asset tracking.