Four Categories of Prospects

In our previous article on Prospecting, we emphasized the pivotal role of prospecting as the cornerstone of sales, responsible for approximately 60% of your overall sales outcomes. In this post, we will delve into the exploration of the four distinct categories of prospects: candidates, suspects, walk-ins, and leads.

The ability to accurately identify and focus on the most appropriate category within this spectrum can be the key that unlocks substantial revenue potential for your business.

A. Candidates: Candidates are potential buyers or users of your product about whom you have limited or no information. These individuals or companies are unfamiliar to you in terms of their specific needs, the value they would derive from your product or service, their purchasing capacity, the location of the buying authority, their current suppliers, the reasons for their current choices, the challenges they face with their existing vendors, their buying processes, and their transaction timelines.

Approaching candidates in prospecting is often referred to as blind prospecting. It involves treating everyone within your business vicinity as a potential candidate for your products and services. This approach can be compared to trying to sell a product designed for a specific demographic to the entire population. For example, attempting to sell baby products in a monastery or a nunnery where individuals have no children or such plans. Blind prospecting may lead to hard work but yield minimal results. It is akin to putting in a lot of effort without achieving significant outcomes, leaving you with nothing tangible to show for your efforts except dirty shoes, a brown collar, and sweaty armpits. Clearly, prospecting via candidates can be an arduous and inefficient way of searching for prospects.

Prospecting candidates would typically include:

• Sending the same type of proposal to a large number of people.

• Broadcasting mass SMS without any segmentation.

• Sending bulk emails without segmentation.

• Door to door visits without profiling.

• Distributing flyers and brochures in public places.

• Mass-market advertisements and promotions.

Prospecting candidates can indeed be a laborious and challenging approach to finding potential customers. The conversion rate from this category of prospects is often very low, leading to frustration for many salespeople who invest significant time, energy, and resources with little return on their efforts.

To maximise efficiency and productivity in prospecting, my advice is to allocate only about 15% of your prospect list to candidates. Instead, focus the majority of your efforts on the other categories of prospects, where there is a higher likelihood of success and a better return on your investment. By targeting your efforts more strategically and narrowing down your prospect list to include a higher proportion of suspects, walk-ins, and leads, you can significantly improve your sales results and overall effectiveness as a sales professional.

B. Suspects or Qualified Prospects: Suspects, also known as qualified prospects, are potential buyers and users of your products or services who you have strong reasons to believe are actively in the market for what you offer. As a salesperson, you have meticulously segmented, profiled, and researched this group of potential customers. Through your analysis, you have identified compelling reasons why these individuals or companies may have a genuine need and interest in your products or services.

By focusing your prospecting efforts on suspects, you increase the probability of connecting with individuals or companies that are more likely to convert into actual customers. The thorough segmentation and research allow you to tailor your sales approach to their specific needs, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of your sales process. Engaging with qualified prospects who genuinely require what you offer not only boosts your conversion rates but also fosters stronger, long-lasting customer relationships.

Prospecting via suspects involves searching for potential customers whose needs and socio-economic profile align with the value proposition and customer requirements of your product or service. These individuals or companies have been thoroughly segmented, profiled, and researched, giving you compelling reasons to believe that they are in the market for your products or services.

However, it’s essential to remember that not every suspect will ultimately subscribe to your product or service, even if they possess the need, capacity, urgency, and authority to make a purchase. While they have the potential to do business with you, the decision to proceed with a purchase is still contingent on various factors.

By focusing your prospecting efforts on suspects, you increase the likelihood of connecting with individuals or companies that have a genuine interest in what you offer, making it a more efficient and effective approach compared to prospecting via candidates. Your ability to identify and target qualified prospects significantly enhances your chances of converting them into loyal customers.

C. Leads are another essential category of prospects, and they come in two forms. The first type of lead is referred to you by those who are already buying from or doing business with you. These referrals act as advocates for your products and services, as their positive experience with your offerings serves as a testimony to the claims you make. Advocates are valuable leads because their referrals are based on their first-hand experience, which adds credibility to your offerings and instils trust in potential customers.

The second category of leads consists of individuals who have been referred to you by people who may not be direct customers but have influence or access to potential users of your products or services. This group includes your relatives, friends, members of your professional network, and others who can provide valuable connections. While they might not be current customers themselves, their referrals offer you access to potential users of your products or services, making them a valuable source of leads. Their influence and network connections can open doors to new opportunities and expand your customer base.

D. Walk-in prospects are the final category of prospects. These individuals have either come across your advertisements, jingles, or promotions, or they have independently recognised a need and seek to find out if your product or service can fulfil that need. Walk-in prospects proactively approach you to inquire about your offerings, showing genuine interest in your products or services. Their initiative demonstrates their potential as qualified leads, as they have taken the first step in the buying process by seeking information directly from you. Engaging with walk-in prospects provides an excellent opportunity to convert their interest into a successful sale.

From the information provided, it is evident that leads are the most favourable category of prospects due to their higher likelihood of conversion. However, the distribution of prospects across these categories varies depending on your experience and position within your organization or society.

Senior management professionals are expected to have a substantial portion, approximately 85%, of their business coming from leads. This includes referrals, word-of-mouth, and advocacy. The remaining 15% would be sourced from suspects. For salespersons at the intermediate level, the ideal prospect distribution should consist of around 60% to 65% from suspects and approximately 30% from leads. Entry-level salespeople are likely to make some mistakes initially, so their prospect spread might comprise about 40% as candidates, 50% as suspects, and only 10% as leads.

It is essential for sales professionals to strive towards generating a larger portion of their business from leads as they progress in their careers. As they build their reputation and expertise, word-of-mouth referrals and advocacy become powerful tools for sustained success in the sales profession.

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