The purpose of constructing an outreach plan is to generate conversations with prospects in hopes of winning their business, eventually.
What often happens in the earliest days is we haven’t properly defined what exactly makes for a good (or bad) customer.
How many times have you found yourself with an inbound lead that wants to “get more information” or an outbound lead that responds to your cold outreach and agrees to a “demo” and all you’re thinking is:
First of all, shit, how do I close them now? Or in sales parlance, how do I move them along in my sales funnel i.e.
Suspect → Lead → Opportunity → Won/Lost
- Suspect: has not heard of you, at least to your knowledge
- Lead: in your CRM and may have responded to you
- Opportunity: qualified lead
- Won/Lost: closed or dead [for now] deal
Second, what are the right questions to ask to close this lead?
In this chapter of Bootstrapping Sales, we’ll cover how to best qualify your prospects and land your best customers.
Qualifying vs. Disqualifying
Many sales teams overcomplicate the process of qualifying leads.
In our experience, having run sales at over a dozen companies, we’ve learned that it’s best to flip the old model on its head and focus on disqualifying leads instead.
It may take you a bit of time at first to train your eyes, ears, and brains but trust us that it’s worth it. Here’s why:
Get used to hearing “No”
Regardless of whether you focus on SMBs, Mid-Market, or Enterprise, B2B sales is still a raging numbers game.
Remember, we assume we’ll hear “No” 98.5% of the time and “Yes” only 1.5% of the time, and that’s OK. This isn’t to say you can’t and/or shouldn’t try to optimize your conversion number but no need to over-optimize from the jump off.
Mentally prepare yourself and organizationally prepare your team to hear more “No” than “Yes”. And move forward.
Whether you’re bootstrapping or not, no one has an infinite runway. You have to close as fast as you can. Therefore given these conversion numbers, most of sales is actually about disqualifying prospects, quickly. This ensures you focus your attention on actual buyers, instead of mere interested parties.
Now let’s talk about how you can weed out leads fast.
An efficient framework
There are SO MANY sales acronyms. GPCTBA/C&I, BANT, ANUM, CHAMP, MEDDIC. You just might FAINT trying to commit to one.
So we say, fuck the acronyms. This is not an article about another acronym. It’s about what you actually need to do to disqualify prospects and close them on your timeline.
You really have just two questions to answer about a lead:
- Are they a buyer?
- If yes, are they a buyer right now?
Are you a buyer?
Let’s start by defining “buyer.”
You want someone to pay you, right? Let’s call this someone, who can pay you, a buyer. Done deal :)
Buyers (almost) always have a budget and are either the decision maker or are part of the decision making committee. A buyer cares about your offering enough to pay for it, now, in order to solve their problem, now.
A buyer is NOT someone who just wants something/anything, like a CEO who wants HR software but has fourteen other fires to put out, yesterday. If the lead you’re working on isn’t a buyer right now, put them into (or earmark them for) your marketing funnel and move on.
Are you a buyer right now? (right now = our timeline)
Right now means your (reasonable) timeline. This varies significantly based on your industry and product.
Your ASP (average selling price), AOV (average order value) or your ACV (average contract value) is correlated with your sales cycle. Typically the lower your ASP/AOV/ACV, the shorter your sales cycle.
For point of reference, at Groupon (a highly transactional sales process with relatively low ASP), the sales cycle was 30–45 days. At enterprise companies, the sales cycle could take north of 12 months.
Identifying right now is the difference between a great and a desperate salesperson. Identifying right now separates popcorn muscles sales growth from predictable sales growth.
Identifying right now is the lifeblood of your company.
Yeah yeah yeah. We get it. But what are the proper answers to the questions?
Treat your Leads as humans because, well, THEY ARE! Pull up their LinkedIn, apply genuine curiosity about their background, find some common ground, and proceed through the conversation as if they were your friend. No fluff. No SaaS B2B jargon. No “Org Chart” or “Timeline.” Those aren’t words people say in real life. We talk to too many founders that read qualification articles and come out sounding like robots. Be a freaking human.
Think about this scenario: you walk into an Apple Store and a sales rep approaches you and asks the following four questions:
- How much are you going to spend today here at Apple?
- Do you own a credit card that can be used at Apple?
- When do you expect to complete your iPad purchase?
- How badly do you need this iPad?
You’d walk out and never return (or at the very least be annoyed as all hell that you were harassed and tell your friends about the experience), and Apple would be out of business. They have a system that identifies those buyer/buyer right now characteristics automatically.
So, do you think someone who has never heard of your company and never met you would want you to badger them with “What is your budget?” and “Are you in charge of this decision?” questions? Nope!
2. Use this framework for deciding which questions to identify your buyer/buyer right now:
a. Channel and express genuine curiosity about prospects’ organizations, roles, and lives.
b. Identify all factors of your ideal buyer and if they can buy right now — must they be a decision maker? The prospects’ total available budget for your product? A full understanding of their organization and the stakeholders? How quickly can they mobilize to buy your product? An explicit pain at their organization that your product can solve?
c. Write out your questions in a doc, test them on prospects, assess their efficacy after several attempts.
3. Sell! This should be an obvious one, but frequently, we run into founders who just list dis/qualification questions and treat these conversations like order takers.
4. Track your scripts and results.
a. Play calls back for yourself to see how specific language resonated (or not) with leads.
b. Track conversion rates from lead to qualified to demo on a regular basis.
- The regularity of your tracking should correspond to your sales cycle. We recommend you start with weekly and monthly, then adjust and calibrate as needed.
It’s surprisingly easy to weed out and disqualify leads in favor of buyers who are ready right now. If you maintain a clear-eyed focus on those leads, you’ll find yourself getting to “Yes” and closing a deal a whole lot quicker.