Use Your Marketing To Keep People Away,
Tactics For Qualifying Prospects
You save a great deal of effort, time, and money in your business when
you create sales and marketing materials and processes that allow your
prospective clients to disqualify themselves. By not dealing with you or
your staff until they are qualified, your closing rate increases while your cost of sales and
marketing simultaneously decreases.
For more details on this strategy, check out last
month's column about the reasons why you should use marketing to keep people
away. Now, let's discuss the tactics you can incorporate into your day-to-day
activities. The goal is to build "self-service disqualification"
into your company.
The Process Of Disqualifying Suspects
There are three general stages for qualification in customer acquisition.
First, anyone who has the remotest possibility of needing your services is
a suspect. This definition could be as simple as any person with a pulse.
The next stage is for prospects, which involves the actual
identification that they are in the market for your solution, but haven't
decided on a provider yet. And finally, based on the prospect's
evaluation, they become your clients.
You want to have as many suspects disqualify themselves as early as
possible. There may be more than one level within this stage. The first
level is a visit to your Web site followed by the second, which is
subscribing to your e-zine, or electronic newsletter. They may stay here
and take free information forever. That's fine -- you're not incurring any
costs. Some of these suspects may even refer you without ever having purchased anything from
you. Ultimately, though, you really want as many suspects as possible to identify themselves as
purchasing your product or service.
At this point, you have prospects. Prospects are those willing to
clearly identify themselves by filling in a form, questionnaire, survey, or
sales presentation request. They show a level of commitment and willingness
to enter your sales cycle.
Notice that you still haven't sent expensive marketing materials like high-quality
brochures, demo CDs, or your video. Many prospects are comfortable
receiving additional information via Web sites with secure password authentication
to get specific details, presentations, or an initial consultation. You can
have them fill in an evaluation, or audit, describing their current
situation to further qualify them.
Essential Disqualification Tools
To reduce the risk of wasting money and time with "tire
kickers," you should have the following disqualification tools at
Your Unique Selling Proposition
This is often referred to as your USP, or what I call your Ultimate
Strategic Positioning. Basically, it is your 30-second company pitch that
concisely describes a key benefit from your company and who you serve.
It is an omnipresent disqualification tool. It is spoken on your voice
mail system, at networking events, in meetings, and during presentations.
It is written into all your marketing materials, on your Web sites, and in
any advertising you do.
An example of a USP would be: "We help broadband firms with their quality
assurance by providing independent, third-party testing facilities. This
gives their sales people confidence and additional support to offer the
company's family of products. In addition, we help them meet any state's
certifications and industry standards." A great champion of the USP concept is Jay
USPs are the perfect opportunity to enable self-serve disqualification. If
a suspect isn't involved in the broadband industry, he'll move on without
tapping any of your resources. If he is in this industry, then he may very
well desire the benefits you've mentioned.
Specific Qualification Questions
Create a list of specific questions to be used, even if rhetorically,
by your receptionist, your sales people, in your marketing materials, and on your Web site. Eventually, you'll know the answers you must hear
in order for suspects to become prospects and finally clients.
Asking specific questions upfront saves a lot of headache.
Inexperienced sales people often don't ask the questions they should. They fear
losing their prospects. They may be working with more suspects than
prospects, just to keep the sales manager happy that they're at
Informational Web Site
Use the content on your Web site to incorporate the points above, like
your USP and the questions you ask. The Web also allows you to reinforce
your specific message with pictures and graphics. Showing circuit board
drawings is interesting to those that want them.
The Internet is a phenomenal tool for serving suspects for little cost
and taking prospects through preliminary disqualification tasks. I use
automated processes on my Web site from GoldMine
software that gives suspects and prospects information without taking my
time, effort, or money... and it works 24/7.
Audit Or Self-Evaluation Form
Have your suspects and prospects perform a self-diagnosis. This is easily
accomplished through a Web form. Let them gauge their own desire to enter
your selling process. If the solutions you're presenting don't incite them
to fill out the form, they will not be ready
to buy now anyway. Don't waste time selling them, yet. Get them on your e-zine
list and stay in touch electronically, but invest little time or money to
pursue them at this stage.
Additional Tactical Tools For Disqualification
There are additional proactive tactics you can use to enable
Public Relations Strategy
Write case studies and articles for industry or solution-specific
publications. Target those you know your best customers read. Focus on your
core clients with the highest profitability in your PR materials.
When purchasing lists for mail or e-mail, it is better to invest in
more highly targeted lists. Some companies still mistakenly believe that purchasing larger lists to
hit more contacts will yield greater interest in their product. It may
give you more suspects, but it won't give you more prospects or clients.
Acronyms And Associations
Know and use acronyms and associations that are familiar only to your
targeted industry. People who don't know what the acronyms stand for, or
fail to recognize any of the associations, feel that they are in the wrong
place and move on. Prospects in the specified industry feel comfortable hearing acronyms that are second nature to them,
and perceive you as a specialist in their industry if you are aware of
their associations (joining them is a step better).
Testimonials And Referrals
Positive comments with the name and title of your satisfied customers lead
to their peers buying in. Purchasers want social proof that others are
making similar decisions -- this gives them additional confidence and
risk. One company I worked at had three salespeople all buy the
same car model within weeks of each other, based on each other's
In conclusion, it is possible to reduce your cost of sales and
marketing while increasing your sales effectiveness. Automate
disqualification for the thousands of suspects you attract with your
marketing. Further use automation and stepped investment with your
prospects. As a result, you will have more time for quality prospects, and
you'll be able to invest more effort and money in converting them to
Martin Wales, the Customer Catcher, is a business development
specialist helping companies win and keep more business with a focus on
CRM. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator
focused on maximum results with minimum risk using a company's existing
resources. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.