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How An Inbound Agency Should Qualify Prospects In AND Out

Posted by Mike Lieberman on Apr 20, 2015 10:30:00 AM

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Qualifying_Prospects_OUTInbound agencies need to be hyper selective in deciding who to work with and who not to work with. 

In Part One of this Blog Series on inbound agency New Business Development we talked about planning, executing and optimizing your own inbound marketing program and in Part Two we discussed the importance of your own your sales process.

In Part Three, we’re focusing on how critical it is to qualify prospects IN and OUT as early as possible.

Why is it so important to make sure you're qualifying prospects within your sales process is working perfectly? If you take a step back and look at your agency from the outside, it might be more apparent.

  1. You’re the owner, so you’re wearing multiple hats—what you work on has to be a high pay off and working on a prospect who might never say yes is low pay off.

  2. You’re trying to model for your prospects, so if they’re not seeing you apply an inbound methodology, how are they going to feel safe when hiring you?

  3. If you have sales people working for you, then you only want them mustering internal resources to help with real, viable opportunities. You can spend a lot of money and burn a lot of cycles working on prospect deals that will never close.

So how do you qualify effectively to get to NO or Yes early and often?

Ask The Right Questions

This is critical. Before you even consider an opportunity, make sure you’re asking the right questions. These questions fall into three areas. Pain – How badly do they need what you do? Make sure you probe for the reasons behind the pain and try to measure just how acute that pain is.

Power – Are you talking to the person who signs the checks, not the decision makers? People will tell you they have the ultimate authority and then you find out they have the authority to recommend, not to hire. If they can’t sign your agreement, you’re not talking to power.

Fit – How perfectly does your agency fit with what this prospect wants done? If you ONLY do inbound marketing and they have some traditional stuff too, it might not be a great fit. You have to ask your prospects on the very first call or meeting enough questions to get a solid understanding around all three of these areas. 

If even one is off, you might be wasting your time.

Apply A Consistent Vocabulary

This is important when more than one person is involved in new business development. You might have a sales person or two. Perhaps your account team is also responsible for sales or maybe a partner who focuses on bringing in new clients.

Does this sound familiar? What’s going to close this month? Oh, tons. We have this and that, this one and that one, they all look good this month. Then the month closes and almost all of them still haven’t turned from prospects to clients. You need a common vocabulary that everyone uses and everyone understands. For instance, at our place I often ask, “Are you working with Power?” Everyone understands how to answer that question. If the person can’t sign our agreement, the answer is NO!

Use A Lead Scoring System

Applying a quantitative scoring system to the sales process is a great way to get everyone on the same page. Take the Pain, Power and Fit system we discussed earlier. Each of these three areas can be scored on a scale of 0 to 5, where 5 is the highest score you can get and 0 is the lowest.

Here’s how that would work. If you’re working with Power, you get a 5. If the Fit is a slam dunk perfect fit, you get another 5 and if their Pain is so acute they have to hire someone to do inbound for them in the next day or so, or else, then they get another 5. Add them up and this prospect’s score is a 15. Score a 14 or a 15 and you should expect the signed paperwork back in the next day or so, definitely closing within 30 days. No conjecture, no optimistic application of an individual’s filter, no guessing.

Let’s look at another prospect. You’re not talking to Power, in fact, you’re working with an admin who is doing research on inbound agency firms. Give yourself a 1 for the Power category. You’re not sure it’s a perfect Fit, they are still doing a ton of cold calls and direct mail and are unwilling to even entertain the idea of moving some of that budget over to inbound. Lastly, they don’t have to make any decision immediately. They have an agency and they’re considering a move. Give this prospect a 3 and make sure you don’t put too much time in with them, when you have a couple of 14s and 15s in the funnel.

Now just because a prospect is a three (3) today, doesn’t mean it’s always going to be a three. Once you connect with Power and better assess her desire to move toward inbound and find out when that current agency contract expires, you can increase the score over time.  However, today a three is always a three. It’s not going to close anytime soon so don’t count it and don’t plan on that revenue.

Create A Verbal Contract or Agreement With Your Prospect

As you work with your prospect, establish the ground rules for your relationship upfront. People don’t like to tell you bad news, so they might just opt to tell you nothing. This is a problem when you’re managing a collection of prospects, trying to close them and working them through your own sales process.

Make sure you talk about any potentially uncomfortable situations upfront. Tell your prospects, “It’s ok to tell me you don’t think it’s a good fit. I’m going to tell you the same, if that’s what I see. You can be honest with me. I would rather we agree early on than waste each other’s time only to find out at the last minute. Sound fair?” They will respect you for it and you can remind them of your agreement at various times during the sales process, preventing you from wasting time and money on prospects that are NEVER going to pick you.

Once you get this down, you should see the quality of the prospects you’re spending your time on increase. You should have a much better idea when they are going to say yes and you should be able to project the revenue with a much higher degree of confidence. This triggers a whole host of positive changes within your agency.

First, you can hire with confidence, especially if you get paid up front. More on that in a future article. You can plan how to allocate your existing resources with more confidence too. You should be able to pick and choose who you work with and you can negotiate from a position of strength. In essence, you have to dance—like no one is watching.

Start Today Tip – Start applying a methodology that allows you to evaluate ALL your prospects objectively. Ask the hard questions early and often. If you don’t like the answers, don’t be shy to tell your prospect that “you don’t think this is a good fit” and then offer them options. You can refer them, you can offer to send them some reading material, you can suggest that they go off and do some homework, then come back and talk with you again. You’re in control. Not the prospect. You have the expertise, you know how to do it—they need you. The bolder you are, the more they’re going to respect your opinion and the more opportunities you’ll have to pick from.

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Topics: Business Development, inbound agency new business development, inbound Agency Sales Process

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