When a client calls to ask for a website or an app or an internet marketing campaign, we should not be selling. We should be suspicious, we should doubt that the person has called the right number. Not every caller is a perfect fit for our agency.
Why do we end up with the wrong clients? Because we don’t have enough leads.
An insanely practical book about outbound B2B sales that I’m reading now, Predictable Revenue (not an affiliate link), has inspired this article.
More specifically, this:
The goal of a sales representative working a prospect is NOT to generate a sales opportunity by any means necessary. The primary goal is to determine the “truth” of whether there is, or is not, an opportunity at this account in the next several weeks or months.
When you’re in doubt, you ask a lot of questions, don’t you?
Imagine a stranger appearing at your door, asking you to let him in.
Excuse me sir, how can I help you?
You’re looking for what exactly?
We don’t let strangers into our homes, but we assume that every person capable of sending an email is our next paying customer. Why do we do that?
Because we’re starved for business leads.
If you were starved for human attention, you’d let any stranger into your home. Some of those people could hurt you.
Some of the people calling our business phone can hurt us too. Although most people are good people, most inquiries turn out to be bad for our business, because:
They cannot ever afford our services.
They do not value or need what we excel at.
They don’t have the authority to buy from us.
A thousand other ways they’re wasting their time and our time.
When we don’t have enough leads coming in, we treat every call, every RFP, every inquiry as a perfect client. Every caller is perfect because he or she is the only one calling that day or that week.
That’s how we end up dumping our prices.
That’s how we choose to silence our inner voice which is telling us that “this guy smells like trouble”.
We’re like bank robbers in famous movies who decide to “do one last heist before I retire because I could use the money”. And then that last job turns into a spectacular nightmare.
Sales really is a numbers game.
If you talk to fifty people on any given day, your chance of closing at least one sale increases dramatically. Even if you’re the worst salesperson in the world, you’ll sell something to someone.
I resisted this simple truth for a long time. I’m experienced enough today to understand what “a numbers game” really means: having more leads than you can handle is a good thing.
Imagine having a marketing machine capable of generating 50 to 100 inquiries a month for your web design services. That’s more than 2 inquiries per day, every day.
My agency used to be like that once. What I’ve learned during that period is this: it’s impossible to dedicate enough quality time to every person if more than a couple of people call every day to buy a website.
When too many leads are coming in, something great happens: you naturally start prequalifying leads. You learn how valuable your time really is, and you start guarding your time as if it was the scarcest resource in the universe (which it is). You know that you need to reserve five to twenty hours of your month for that one special client who will buy from you. You make it your mission to recognize that one perfect client by the way he writes emails, talks on the phone, asks questions.
A salesperson juggling fifty leads can drop most of those leads and still feel good about it. Learning how not to feel bad about dropping leads in sales is how you become great in sales.
But when one lead is all that the cat dragged in that week, you’ll be holding onto that one prospect as if there was no tomorrow. You force the sale. You do all the classic sales mistakes, such as presenting the solution before probing for problems. You experience all the classic responses salespeople get from clients when a sale is not going to happen, such as being lied to and not getting your calls returned.
There is no better way to learn how to sell than to drown yourself in leads
There are three effective ways to get as many leads as you want:
Provide a first-class service. What you do and how you do it is so excellent, that your clients can’t resist promoting you and referring you for free. The good thing about referrals is that they’re so easy to sell to. The bad thing about them is that you can’t control word-of-mouth at all.
Set up a first-class marketing machine. Have the leads come to you. Combine online and offline tactics. Have a strategy, create awesome creatives, promote them well and tweak your machine on every step. The bad news about marketing is that it works in long-term only, but the good thing about it is that once you set it up, it almost runs on autopilot.
Set up a first-class sales machine. Why wait for the best clients to come to you? Go after them yourself! Create a profile of an ideal client, create a database of them, and start emailing and calling your way into those accounts. The bad news is that this is scary to do, but the good news is that it’s completely under your control. Also, you could close your first deal in a matter of days.
Mature agencies run all those three machines simultaneously. Don’t buy into that bullshit that great services don’t need good sales or marketing. They do, now more than ever. The noise is too intense.
When you’re drowning in leads, you’ll let go of the bad leads fast and with pleasure. You’ll stick to your prices. You won’t overpromise and underdeliver.
If you’re full of doubt about your ability to create first-class anything, start with what you have right now and work from there:
If your service is not the best at the moment, you’ll get better at providing it the more ideal clients you’re working with.
If you’re not the best salesperson, practice on your existing clients. They are easier to sell to, compared to people who do not know you. Call your favorite client and suggest to make a little something for her, something she’d experience as a great improvement to her business. Charge for it well.
If you’re not the best marketer, write a case study about your favorite client (I prefer the word case story because that’s what case studies are: stories). Write the story about how your services helped that client achieve one of their goals. With that case story in hand, approach another prospect with the same problem.
Nothing happens until somebody sells something. Put yourself out there, drown yourself in leads, and sell! Make good shit happen to you ;)
Creative Commons image license: Opportunity by Srikrishna Narasimhan