Photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Can you send me some information please?
When prospecting with a new company, this is a standard question we do hear a lot. And when we have our happy ears on, it is fair for us to assume that this is a positive sign. The syllogism could be “All companies who have signed wanted information at the beginning of a process. He wants information. Therefore he will sign.”
But let’s not kid ourselves…
This question “Send me some information” could actually mean:
- First option: “Please do go away, I am busy but I am polite so I am pretending to be interested by asking you information”. It’s easier when people are straightforward with a no. But sometimes, politeness goes in the way :)
- Second option: “We are actually looking into building this internally or bringing a supplier for this exact issue. Please do give me market intelligence for free so I can use this internally or to drive a hard bargain with your competitor”. Unless one sells a completely unique solution, there is a competitive market and therefore this is a possibility.
- Third option: “I am genuinely interested but I don’t want to tell you why that’s the case, what I am interested in and I want to make up my mind myself”
I know, ain’t looking good, is it?
So, how to qualify those prospects that are worth investing time into and those who just play on our happy ears. Whether we have 5 prospects or 300 (where resource prioritisation becomes critical and a hard look into the not so good and the good prospect is certainly needed), lead scoring has to be data-led. To be specific: two types of data are worth taking into account: the data that we have to ask to prospects and the data we don’t have to ask.
Let’s start with the hard bit first.
The data we have to ask:
I’ve mentioned we need to ask a lot of questions in sales. The more we ask, the more we show we are interested by what the possible buyer is doing and working on (and therefore the more empathy). No need to draw here the list of typical questions one should ask in a sales engagement, it’s a rather long list and it’s of course specific to every single organisation. But it can be daunting. One could even feel there is too much information to ask.
Some concerns that could arise are, for instance: “Maybe they don’t want to give us this information”. “Maybe they will tell us to go away if we are being too demanding.”. Actually, a buyer and a seller are part of an even relationship. The (possible) buyer wants information. That’s normal.
But here is some ground truth: the seller is entirely allowed to ask questions/information too.
Here is a possible (albeit very simple) scenario/script which does help to qualify the prospect, understand why he wants information (which, let’s not forget, could be a polite way to tell us to go away) and make sure sales effort are measured (even if I don’t believe in scripts in sales calls). Here goes:
Prospect: “Could you send me some information?”
Me: “Of course I can. I am glad you ask. But when you are asking me to send information, what specifically would you want to read about as, honestly, I could send you more information than you have time available (if a good rapport exist, I also add “I could actually make your inbox explode”) and I want to make sure to share the right information so to be efficient with your time”.
Prospect: “Well, we discussed X, Y, Z. This would be of value.”
Me: “I see, it does make sense and these are issues many of our customers face. So that I understand clearly, with regards to X, Y, Z, what specifically is of interest and, to an extent, why these as opposed to T, U, V which we also discussed earlier?”.
What is happening here?
Well, going this way helps to drill on the issues and the prospect can elaborate on the reasons why she / he wants information. And what isn’t relevant so to be efficient for the next meeting.
Then, I will send some information in a more informed manner. And, as I do so, I naturally expect something back. I want to avoid ending up being in this situation where I have to chase. Too many time I have sent a lot of information and, ultimately, ended up having to chase people with the dreaded: “What do you think? / Did you read the documentation”. Yes, I have ended up in the very silent death valley (it’s silent in the death valley, nobody responds to emails and phone calls….) even if the prospect said that it was an “interesting meeting”. So, how to establish reciprocity and avoid ending in this very silent place. Well, I like to bring the future forward and agreeing with the prospect what will happen.
Let’s finish the conversation.
Me: “Ok, I will send you information about X, Y, Z . This is relevant because, as far as you are concerned, reason A, B, C. And you also mentioned T, U, V is not something worth discussing further. Now, we are both busy people and it will take time to digest what I sent you. Once you have read this document, is it fair to assume you will have a more informed view on whether or not there is a fit? To be efficient, could we agree that when we discuss next, we will be in two possible positions: “Let’s stop here as this is not for us” or, if there is a possible fit “Yes, there is a possible fit”. If so, we will reconvene and agree the people to involve in the process and what we both need to do to come to a yes / no decision?”
Prospect: “That’s reasonable”
Me: “Finally, before we finish for today, I need your help. I assume you do have a fair amount of reporting to do for your boss. I also do and, frankly speaking, that’s what I call “the not so funny part of doing business”. But I know I will be asked to report on our conversation. Could you help me with some information that my boss will ask me for?”
Prospect: “Sure, shoot” (People usually like to help other people)
Me: “It’d be good to know” and then I go on with 4 or 5 key qualification questions, from quantified ones (specific to a product) to specific timing (it’s a top prio internally, it’s not, it could be) or people involved in the process (who is involved in similar conversation, who is the person usually signing this type of project if they go ahead, etc…).
There are 3 important things in the (rather simplified) dialogue above:
- The future is brought forward , it’s agreed what will happen (and when) once the information has been sent and, theoretically, there will be no need to chase.
- There is an information gathering on what interests the prospect (X, Y, Z because of A, B, C) and what does not interest the prospect (U, V, W). So a focus on where the problems are and aren’t.
- There is a qualification of the prospect with the required information that I can then put in Pipedrive, SugarCRM, SalesForce or similar.
The data we don’t need to ask:
Good news, the hard bit is done!
Now to the easy bit. The data we do not need to ask but we can collect and which helps to further enrich the profile of prospects. The only thing that is needed is a sales infrastructure in place to measure (I mentioned how to build a sales stack here). Here are some data which are worth capturing and using:
- Source of the prospect. A prospect can be coming from a recommendation (a friend introduction), from a lead generation effort (eg: cold calling or cold emailing), from some inbound (blog posts, webinar, etc…) or paid for marketing (eg: conferences, PPC, etc…). From a sales process point of view, by tracking where these leads come from, it’s possible 6 months further down the line to look where revenues are coming from, where source lead to fastest moving prospect (aka sales velocity), etc… to help feed into the decision of where to put more resources.
- Prospect behaviour: I can think off two relevant and easy data sources to use:
- Email: There is a plethora of email tracking solutions out there. I am a user of YesWare. With YesWare, it is possible to measure how many times a mail is opened, a document opened, etc… This give data (numbers) that can help prioritise effort
- Web tracking: Whether or not a blog exists, it it possible to track what is being read when a prospect comes on the site. As mentioned previously, I am biased to RocketBolt.
- Prospect on-line engagement: There is a fair amount of marketing activities that can trigger some engagement which, in turn, can be turned into a data point for the lead scoring effort. For example if a white paper has been downloaded, if the prospect attended a webinar, etc…
Data should be used to feed information. All the data above can then be turned into scores that do help to prioritise. For instance, if a prospect open his/her email 10 times and read 15 pages of the site / blog, it is reasonable that lead scoring will be at a higher level than a prospect that wants a demo but has not read anything at all. The exercise left to do is simply to quantify the different activities, put a number behind it (for example 10 points for an intro to CEO, 2 points from cold outreach) and act on it. Clearly, this might require a some work initially. And an ideal process might not come out of the blue. But, this helps to know exactly what to do and where to go from when someone is asking:
“Can you send me some information?”.