In the game of baseball, the best hitters develop a good eye for pitches that are right in the strike zone. In criminal investigations, the great detectives know how to zero in on the real suspects and avoid wasting time chasing red herrings. If you want to be a sales champion, you’ve got to focus on the most likely prospects instead of the tire-kickers.
That distinction may not always be crystal clear at the outset, but if you follow these four guidelines, you’ll eliminate time wasting targets more quickly and write more accounts in less time.
These are the questions to ask yourself about each business target in your prospecting pipeline. The answers will tell you not only which ones to focus on first, but how much effort is worth investing.
How closely does the prospect match your current (and best) customers?
When you look at your whole book of business, which customers do you wish you had lots more of? What makes these companies your best customers?
Consider the different characteristics your best customers seem to have in common. It could simply be their industry, size, or location; it could be factors like why they became your client in the first place. Maybe their then-current agent wasn’t paying attention to better rate opportunities, or perhaps they had risk management issues that weren’t being addressed. What other variables could apply here?
Once you’ve been able to identify some characteristics that your best customers/clients share, see which prospects in your pipeline best match those kinds of criteria. These should be the companies who are most likely to do business with you and your agency.
The others, with lower closing probability, may still be worth pursuing – because their probability quotient can change – but for now, your main focus should be on prospects with the most immediate promise.
Are you dealing with the right person?
Sales people are prone to quickly getting “happy ears” when they hear what seems like promising news from someone at a target company: “Oh yeah, I think he’s going to be reviewing the insurance this year.” But is the person saying that involved in the buying process or are they just passing along hearsay?
You can’t sell people you can’t meet with. And if you can’t connect with the actual decision maker or a close lieutenant who’s involved in the buying process, you probably don’t have a prime prospect.
What’s their buying attitude?
We all know that some companies invite agents to quote their insurance just to keep their incumbent “honest.” Those unqualified suspects should be screened out as soon as possible.
You can do that by asking lots of questions during the prospecting stage: Have you compared with other agents in recent years? How frequently do you meet with other agents? When was the last time you’ve changed agents? What motivated you to do that? At the end of that probing process, you’ll want to be reasonably assured that they are, in fact, willing to change agents as long as you can deliver worthwhile improvements.
Does the prospect have some skin in the game?
Even when you’re dealing with the actual decision maker or someone closely involved in the buying process, you’ve got to ask yourself, how engaged are they?
Does the prospect ask pertinent questions? Have you been able to discover some pain points for which they want to find solutions? And in the best of situations, have you and the prospect been able to agree on specific goals that will win you the account?
When prospects are engaged in these ways, you’ve probably got a target that’s worth your time. This isn’t always the case, but there’s a definite correlation between buyer engagement and sales success. So keep nurturing all your realistic opportunities, but focus your immediate sales energy on prospects with a familiar client profile, who have the authority to make changes, and problems you know you can fix.
Can you think of other criteria to identify strong sales prospects? Please tell us in the comments below how you pinpoint the prime prospects in your sales efforts.