On Disqualifying: I’m Just Not That In To You

Disqualifying is an important part of prospecting and the development of a pipeline.

Not every name that gets imported into your sales force automation software is worthy of your time and your effort. This is true even when they spend money in your category.

Activity for Activity’s Sake is Not Effective

Any reasonably good and professional sales organization will have some defined activity goals. If they are really effective, they will base these goals on the relatively few activities that are proven to result in future sales; not all activities are equal.

It is easy to find yourself as a salesperson weeks into an opportunity that has a very slim chance of producing anything meaningful for you or your prospective client (this isn’t a dream client—it may, in fact, be a nightmare client).

Most of the time we pursue these deals because we have activity quotas that require that we call on a certain number of prospects. When we get there, we find that they do use our product or service, but that they are transactional, they have no definable dissatisfaction, it is impossibly hard to do anything to make a difference for client, and they don’t resemble our target clients.

We pursue these clients for two reasons: 1). They are receptive, and 2). It looks good on an activity report and pipeline. It is activity for activity’s sake alone.

Winning Clients Without Value Creation Leads to Competing on Pricing

Sometimes we do call on prospects that resemble our target clients, our dream clients. But there is one very important difference: we are unable to do any meaningful value creation. Sometimes we just aren’t the right fit for the client, and someone else is a better fit.

In all most every case, the inability to differentiate your offering based on value creation leads to competing on price (which can be a company’s real value proposition, think Wal-Mart). For most of us, commanding greater than commodity pricing means creating value in excess of our cost.

We pursue these prospects because they often spend a lot in out category, and they resemble our dream clients. But they are not our dream clients; they often turn out to be something quite the opposite.

Protect Your Time For Clients for Whom You Create Real Value

Despite your activity goals, the best use of your time is prospecting for and pursuing your dream clients. These are the clients for whom you know that you can create the greatest value. They have challenges and problems that you can help them solve, and they have opportunities that you can help them capitalize on.

The reason we trade our time pursuing our dream clients for time pursuing lesser prospects is simply because our dream clients aren’t usually anywhere near as receptive; they are usually working hard with one of our competitors to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities. They usually have long relationships built on years of value creation. Until dissatisfaction reaches critical mass, they are tough to move.

Because they are harder to move doesn’t mean you should spend your time with lesser prospects. It means instead you should be more creative in nurturing those relationships, more aggressive in differentiating your offering and how you create value, and building a case that they should in fact be dissatisfied.

As for the lesser prospects, best to abandon them. If you can’t really do something exceptionally great for them, you really aren’t that into them anyway.

Conclusion

Salespeople have a tough time breaking off engagements with prospects who don’t really meet their target criteria. But spending time with these prospects prevents spending time doing the heavy lifting required to win dream clients. If they aren’t really dream clients, you should abandon them. You really aren’t that into them anyway.

Questions

  1. Do you pursue prospects for which you can do little to create value only to meet your activity goals?

  2. Can you keep your activity goals from overriding your real goal of acquiring dream clients?

  3. How can you stop calling on prospects who are merely receptive, but who lack the ability to convert to produce a deal?

  4. How can you distinguish between a dream client and an impostor for whom you can only create value by selling price?

  5. Can you build a plan to nurture the dream clients that you really need in order to succeed in sales, and for whom you can create real and differentiated value?


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