Unfortunately, Webster’s Dictionary hasn’t caught up to the small business world quite yet, but it sure would be nice to have a working definition of a ‘qualified prospect’. In a world saturated with Craigslist postings, friend requests, and e-mail lists: it is important to be able to distinguish between a qualified sales lead and an unqualified sales lead.
One of the easiest ways to differentiate from the two is to pose this simple question: Do I have a clear advantage over any other professional who may be trying to court a particular prospect? You can apply this formula in nearly every referral marketing situation. For example, Tracey, a web designer who is looking for new business pays to post dozens of ads on Craigslist. Jim, a restaurant owner is browsing Craigslist and is possibly interested in creating a relationship with a web designer to help create and maintain his restaurant’s website. Now let’s pose the question: Does Tracey have a distinct advantage over any of her competitors when it comes to Jim’s decision? …The answer is absolutely not!
Tracey’s firm is competing with thousands of other firms, both locally and nationally, who can just as easily post a picture on Craigslist. Jim may do a bit of browsing, but he is likely to become overwhelmed with the hundreds of seemingly identical options. Pursuing unqualified sales prospects forces you to cast your net extremely wide and expend a tremendous amount of effort in the hopes that you’ll entice a stranger to give you a call. To be blunt, when was the last time you hired a service professional based on a Craigslist ad, cold call, or a classified?
Suppose Tracey has a good relationship with her accountant named David. She knows that David works with quite a number of local businesses including restaurants. Tracey calls to touch base with David and also takes the opportunity to remind David that he may have a few clients that could use her design services. Later that afternoon, David is on the phone with one of his clients, Jim who happens to be opening a new restaurant. Through some tactful networking, David discovers that Jim will need to establish a website in the near future. Of course, David will want to send Jim’s contact information to Tracey immediately using Referral Key.
Does Tracey have a distinct advantage over her competitors? …The answer is absolutely yes! There’s accountability all around. Jim trusts David’s advice and David is familiar with the quality of Tracey’s work. Jim is focused on running a successful restaurant. He doesn’t have the time to follow up with dozens of Craigslist responses and he certainly doesn’t have time to play phone-tag with an unqualified web designer. Or worse a web designer based out of his basement in Aruba who hasn’t returned his phone calls in a month since Jim’s last payment.
The bottom line is if Tracey immediately follows up with Jim, she is almost guaranteed to close the sale. Jim is an example of an extremely qualified prospect. This polarizes the clear difference between the effectiveness of a strong business referral network and blanketing Craigslist with your pitch.