Well, you wouldn’t be alone — I hear this from sales managers all the time. Here are the reasons I see that salespeople too often select the wrong companies to pursue:
- They are opportunistic and therefore look for low-hanging fruit where getting access to decision makers is relatively easy. Sometimes that works out, but too often it translates into prospects that do not have the resources to be a key customer in your organization.
- They let their own preferences dictate who they pursue. There might be particular categories they are comfortable with, or types of individuals they like to deal with that prejudice their thinking about who they should pursue as a prospect.
- They don’t do their homework — especially about how decisions are made in that prospect’s business and are not realistic about what it takes to get an audience with the right people. This is work that should be done before picking a prospect. Every prospect needs to be vetted first before being declared a target.
- They pursue too many prospects and are therefore indiscriminate about who makes their target prospect list. A scorched earth policy rarely produces 6-10 quality target prospects, the number we recommend at any given time.
So, what do the best managers do to get their salespeople to pick the right prospects? They become the gatekeeper. The bottom line is, if the salespeople are picking poor prospects, it’s the manager’s fault. No prospect should ever get on a salesperson’s target list until it has been fully qualified against a set of objective criteria, a target business profile. Some sales departments use a group process where salespeople must justify to each other and their manager about why the prospect they are proposing meets the target business profile with meetings like a target account court, similar to Shark Tank you see on TV where the individuals looking for an investment face tough questions from investors. Other departments I see require the salespeople to “pitch” their target prospect to one or more managers to get approval. But, one thing stands out among the best - an objective vetting process. More thinking, less feeling. More qualifying and less gut. It always pays off.
- Does this prospect actually have the resources to spend at key account level? What is the evidence?
- What do we know about the decision makers and what it will take to get access? What’s the plan?
- Why do we think they would benefit from our services?
- What changes are happening in their category of business that creates an opportunity for us to help? Is there trouble that needs to be addressed or growth opportunities they have yet to realize?
- What makes you think they are open to solutions?
The best managers know it’s better to do some qualifying work up front to weed out the time-wasting weak prospects from the best few that are well-worth your salesperson’s time and effort.
So, if your salespeople are not picking great prospects, look first in the mirror. The person you see can fix this problem with a little process.