For a salesperson, pressure is part of the job description.
Unfortunately, all that pressure can lead you into a vicious cycle—you begin chasing any sales lead you can find. The pressure mounts because you’re pursuing the wrong people, so you look for even more leads to chase, ad infinitum. Trust me, I’ve wasted thousands of hours running down bad leads, especially back when I was new to sales.
The one piece of advice I can give is to focus on quality over quantity.
They say a good salesperson closes one in 10 leads, depending on the industry. But those aren’t just any leads—they’re pre-qualified leads. If you’re out there cold calling any number you can find, you’ll probably close one in 100.
When you only pursue quality, relevant leads, you can break that cycle of doing more work for fewer results. Here’s how to ensure you’re only after the best possible people for your business:
1: Put in upfront work to ensure the sales lead is relevant.
If you’re selling for a company with a huge sales team, then you probably have a good idea of who your ideal clients are.
But if you’re at a startup or doing consulting work, you have to find your “sweet spot” for clients. The process for figuring out that sweet spot is constant and dynamic. You’ll have to start with the shotgun approach—spraying and praying. But once you have a handful of clients, you’ll need to examine them closely.
Choose 20% of your clients who you feel are a great match and figure out their commonalities. Then, only pursue clients who have similar profiles.
Once you know what type of clients are in your wheelhouse, you can start taking your due diligence even further. Find out their company’s annual revenue to learn if they have the budget for what you’re offering before making your pitch.
It may seem like a lot of work to research leads so thoroughly, but the more time you spend pre-qualifying a sales lead, the less time you’ll need to spend looking for new ones.
2: Make sure you’re pitching the right person.
Unfortunately, the decision maker will likely send a gatekeeper out to listen to your pitch. That’s a problem because no one can pitch your product the way you can.
When a gatekeeper summarizes the pitch, they usually bomb it. They wind up giving the price, not the pitch. And to the decision maker’s ears, the cost is not convincing. That’s why the decision maker must listen to your pitch, whether it’s on a call or in a room.
You don’t have to be condescending to any gatekeepers you run into. Simply ask them, “Hey, will you be the one making the decision on this?” If they tell you “no”—they have to talk to their boss, spouse, dog, co-founder afterword—then ask them, “Okay, can we get your (boss, spouse, dog, co-founder) on the line so we can have everyone involved?”
If it’s not possible for you to talk to the decision maker, ask to reschedule.
I’ve postponed meetings after driving for an hour to the office because it turned out the manager couldn’t make it. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs, so always make sure you’re talking to someone who can give you a definitive “yes” or “no.”
3: Know when to quit, but also when to revisit.
When I’m training salespeople, I tell them, “Never quit unless the prospect pulls a gun on you.”
I use that bit of hyperbole because the majority of people don’t buy immediately. They don’t respond to the first email or two. Or three. In fact, it’s often the sixth or seventh followup that gets someone to bite.
Still, you have to know when to quit pestering people with your pitch and start building a relationship with them. If you realize your product isn’t a good match right now, tell them. Stop trying to close, ask for any referrals they might have, and move on.
If you show a sales lead you can be cool about not getting their business now, then you’ve planted a seed that could come to fruition later.
I actually did this with one of our clients at ShipChain not long ago. We started with a friendly discussion, but it was clear the client wasn’t ready to buy. So I told them I’d love to show them what we’re building by sending updates from time to time. They agreed, and I sent email updates on our progress every month or so. Seven months later, they suddenly reached out and told me they were ready to work together.
And that’s really the power of pursuing the right sales leads. You’re always giving yourself a shot to close—whether it’s tomorrow or two years from now.