housebetSales suspects don’t count as sales prospects.

Barry Trailer, managing partner of CSO Insights, makes the following bet whenever he speaks to sales audiences: “I’ll bet you my house that right now you’ve got good people working hard to get business you don’t want.” So far, Barry has been able to keep his house.

Would you be willing to bet your home that your company is not trying to attract poorly-qualified prospects? And are your reps wasting their precious selling time pursuing so-called “leads”?

Get Real

There’s so much wrong with the traditional sales funnel, and it’s gotten worse in Sales 2.0. In the past, we were schooled to throw as much stuff as possible into the sales funnel—including so-called leads from mailings, trade shows, advertising, networking, and newsletters. Now we can add those who interact with us through blogging, videos, e-books, free reports, social networks, press releases, affiliate traffic, and RSS feeds to that list of so-called sales leads.

I use “so-called” because these aren’t really sales leads. They’re inquiries, possibly names, or people just interested in free stuff. If we take the time to weed through all this trash, we might actually find a prospect. Some people call this “permission marketing.” But it’s just a prospecting system, not successful lead generation.

Unclog Your Funnel

Picture your sales funnel stuffed with weeds, rocks, and sand. These will clog the opening and prevent a steady flow of good business. If you try pouring water into a clogged funnel, the water backs up and nothing moves through. It’s not a pretty picture, and certainly not a functional business model.

Attracting the wrong clients to your business is like dumping trash into your sales funnel. A full funnel is only valuable if it’s filled with qualified prospects who fit your Ideal Client profile.

Do You Have Dead Prospects?

My client, Ben, told me he had four categories of prospects in his database: Suspects, prospects, clients, and dead. Suspects, he explained, were names from a list his company purchased. He was frustrated with this list, because even after six to 10 calls, he still couldn’t reach anyone.

Prospects were people who had been referred to Ben. When he called them, he got an appointment immediately. And calling on clients was a great use of his time. He reconnected, got more business, and earned the right to ask for referrals to other companies.

When I asked Ben why he spent so much time trying to connect with suspects when he didn’t even know if they had a need for his product, he didn’t have an answer. It hadn’t occurred to Ben that he didn’t need suspects at all. In fact, he might as well move them over to the dead column.

Change the Conversation

It’s time to change how we talk about sales leads. Inquiries are not leads. Neither are people wanting free stuff or anyone from those “coveted” lists of names. Calling these sales leads borders on insulting.

Leads are people who are truly interested in talking to you about your product or service. They match the profile of your Ideal Client, have budget, have a need, and are open to learning how you can help grow their businesses.

So unclog your funnel, and start filling it with qualified leads. Soon you’ll be generating more business from fewer leads.

Comment Here

How do you ensure that your sales team is pursuing qualified leads with clients your company really wants? Share your stories and strategies here.