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This chapter is from the book

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Do you want to know the best part of the grill manufacturer story?

To our surprise, the marketing director wasn’t surprised by our findings. He was pretty sure he had a problem, but he hadn’t found a way to qualify it as we did. He also didn’t know where to turn for help because he didn’t know any direct response specialists. But he did know that his current ad agency wasn’t one. Within a few weeks, we had a new client and he had the solution he had been looking for to solve his pain point.

However, if this same situation happened today, he most likely would have just turned to Google and searched for “direct-response marketing” or “direct-response advertising agencies” or some other related keyword string. And if he had found our agency and seen our work and our thinking, we might have had that same meeting without going through all the research pain. That would have been a far more efficient way to land a new client.

But if you’re still living inside your database, inefficiency is really the least of your problems. Let’s revisit a key point in the telecom prospect story. I said I was about to move an A-List prospect to the B-List, and vice versa. But what was I using to define A-List vs. B-List prospects?

Did I have reasons to believe that the A-List prospects were actually more likely to want to fire their current advertising agency partner and hire our firm? Did I know that they had key pain points that our agency was uniquely staffed to solve? Did I even know what their pain points were?

No.

Like many salespeople using outbound sales systems, I was placing a prospect on the A-List because A-List companies were the companies our firm most wanted to work with that were located within 250 miles of New Orleans and did business in categories in which the agency had at least some experience. Or the prospect was in a category that the agency wanted to penetrate.

For all I know, plenty of truly A-List prospects that really did need what we were selling were right there under my nose. But because I had that nose buried in a database, I couldn’t see them. And if they weren’t in my database, they didn’t really exist. They were invisible.

Furthermore, the tools I was using to find and add new prospects to the database (scanning relevant trade for new hires, conferences, networking events, and purchasing lists) were not helping me add qualified prospects. I was just adding prospects.

Thus, after I placed a prospect on our lists, I had to begin the qualification process. Like salespeople everywhere, I cold-called every day in an effort to make contact with key decision makers and pry for information, clues, or insights to help me determine the most effective sales pitch. I don’t know about you, but I hated these cold calls. They were emotionally draining because of the repetitive nature of the effort, an effort that usually resulted in leaving yet another voicemail that was never returned.

If I was lucky enough to get past the gatekeeper and establish direct contact with a prospect, I had to take the person through a series of qualification questions designed to help me tease out their pain points.

Sometimes the prospects would play along and dutifully answer the questions, provide the information, and basically help me qualify them as a potential client. But more often than not, as soon as they figured out I was simply trying to fish for information, they’d suddenly had to “jump on another call” or said “someone just arrived for a meeting,” and the call quickly came to an end.

And then I’d move on to the next person on my call list and start the entire process over. Sound familiar?

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