The leads marketing delivers to the sales team never seem good enough. Either the leads are "bad" and are wastes of a salesperson's time, or there are just not enough "good" ones. If sales had more good prospects, the company would have more sales. Perhaps sales and marketing could work together more successfully if all agreed on what is a lead and what is a prospect.
A lead wants what you have, pure and simple. Somehow they've gotten the idea that what you have will improve their situation, so much so that they're willing to raise their hand and identify themselves. You have succeeded in moving them from anonymity. They have "stepped into the light" and are willing to engage with you in conversation, if only temporarily. We describe people at this stage of the buying cycle as Engaged.
Sometimes this process reveals that we have a "bad" lead; these are people who don't really want what we are selling, but want something else from us, usually for free!
A prospect not only (1) wants what you have, but also has (2) ability to buy and (3) reason to buy now.
A true prospect can afford what you're selling. That means they have available -- or can get -- the budget needed to make the purchase. Plus they have the authority to make the purchase; to "sign the check", if you will.
A true prospect also has a reason to buy now. Perhaps there's an external compelling event that will require them to make a decision soon. Or perhaps they harbor an internal reason -- often emotional in nature -- that carries enough drive to induce them to open up their wallet and buy now.
Somewhere between leads and prospects we have shoppers. Those are buyers who want what you have, and (2) have the ability to buy, but no particular reason to buy today. Much sales (and marketing) energy is expended converting shoppers into buyers. Prospects are easier to convert, because we know they're going to buy from somebody, and soon.
The questions we choose to ask people who engage with us need to help us understand the answers to those 3 questions. We'll get more positive decisions when we can establish that a lead truly is a prospect.
Copyright 2005 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.
Paul Johnson of Panache and Systems LLC consults and speaks on business strategy for systematically boosting sales performance using Shortcuts to Yes?. Check out more salesforce development tips at http://panache-yes.com/tips.html. Call Paul direct in Atlanta, Georgia, USA at (770) 271-7719.