Resources  >> 3 Types of Prospects You Want In Your Pipeline Now

About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  February 01, 2010

3 Types of Prospects You Want In Your Pipeline Now

Originally published for RainToday.com

Lead generation has taken top priority in these challenging times. After we cast the net out wide looking for prospects, the next step is to look through our catch and throw back the fish we don’t want. Here are three kinds of “keepers” that we want to add to our pipeline.

1. Ready and Willing

The first and most obvious: these are folks who are willing and ready to buy. They aren’t just qualified, but ready. Discriminating buyers have redefined urgency, so lead generation activities not only have to attract but also create a “do it now” reaction. Many campaigns are good at the former at the expense of the latter.

How do buyers get ready? First, they must have an immediate reaction to to the promotion. It takes much more than a call to action now to create a “gotta have that now” response. Prospects have to see themselves and their situation in whatever tactic you use to reach out. When they see their problem up in lights, urgency is created. The narrower you apply your expertise, the more competent you appear. The more you diagnose and redefine the situation or their environment, the more unique you are.

Second, they must have a way to make sure you are for real. Your website allows them to do enough due diligence that all they need to do is talk to you before deciding. They want to make sure you can do what your promotions promise and want assurance that their needs will be met. This impression builds over time, which is why consistent exposure such as ongoing columns or blog posts is important. They won’t come to you immediately, but when they do, they will be far along in the sales process.

2. Willing and Exploring

The second type of prospects is those who are exploring but qualified to buy. These are the ones worth nurturing. They see your value, but other things have to happen first. The biggest issue here is to separate the poseurs from the real prospects.

To quickly separate the former from the latter, first look at their track record. Do they have upward momentum? If so, there’s urgency to buy. Do they have a successful background in another area? Then they know how to make things happen. They have a bias towards action. These folks spend time on what really interests them.

Another way to tell the difference: help them decide on a deadline, then see if they keep it. Even if they don’t, watch how they break it. Do they acknowledge their role or make excuses? If they make excuses, they are posing. IF they explain a delay and recommit, then you have someone who is sincere.

Here’s an example from my adventures: I had a prospect we’ll call Betty Sue. She sounded dynamic and had some measure of success. She passed the first test; I was interested. When Betty Sue explained that she needed to “do a couple of things first” I probed by asking, “How long will it take you to get those items off your plate?” She gave me a straight answer: three weeks. Very decisive answer; so far, so good. And I said, “Great. I’ll call in three weeks, and we can either talk about getting started or decide not to move forward.” She agreed.

What happened next? She wouldn’t return my calls. And when she finally did, she made some flippant excuse — and then giggled! That was a clue. I backed away slowly and focused elsewhere.

It’s better to explore with five real prospects than chase 15 people who have delusions of grandeur. Pay attention to the subtle clues in your interactions and proceed accordingly.

3. Small and Steady

Finally, your marketing efforts will attract folks who won’t buy big-ticket items but will make many small purchases over time. In corporate markets, these buyers face big budget cuts and are stuck doing more with less. Or they are a nonprofit organization and have always had to bootstrap. They see your price point as a percentage of their entire budget. If your market is small business owners, then your investment is being compared to their gross revenue. The larger the percentage, the higher the risk.

These leads are the easiest to find. They are usually the majority of industry conference, webinar, and public seminar audiences. Every market segment — no matter how lucrative — has them. They are the easiest to ignore if you focus on high-fee revenue streams; don’t make that mistake. These prospects are looking for a solution and are open to paying for additional help. They are great if you want to make your smaller offerings such as subscription services, webinar series, and public seminars profitable. They can be your base for ongoing, more passive income.

To get these buyers, the biggest hurdle is competing with free resources. They will not respond to offers that duplicate what they can get for free somewhere else. They respond well to interactive programs with tactics they can implement easily and on their own. Tools also are popular — anything that will do what they can’t do alone.

Another issue to address because of the economy is risk. The small and steady prospects are no longer willing to risk even small amounts of money. The mindset used to be, “Hey, if it doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. I paid very little for this.” With the uneven recovery, the perspective now is, “I’m not willing to waste any of my resources.”

Good Lead Generation Attracts Good Prospects

Sales success often rests on whom we focus upon. Pipelines with too many false buyers create a low close ratio, a low cash flow, and a high degree of frustration. Effective lead generation campaigns catch the attention of many buyers and have a system to distinguish between serious prospects and the wanderers in the wilderness.

Filed Under: Sales


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.