article | June 15, 2012
Sniffing out a Polite ‘No’ from a Supposedly Qualified Lead
One of my roles at SBI is coaching managers of Lead Development teams. Unqualified leads returned by the sales force are routinely analyzed. This is done to learn from mistakes through continuous improvement. Often the root problem of unqualified leads is false interest. Lead development reps can have ‘happy ears’ and accept interest without vetting true interest.
What’s difficult about this situation is that the lead development representative who qualified interest is usually adamant that they did their job right and the sales rep blew it. The sales rep gets frustrated because the lead development rep is wasting their time with bogus leads. This dynamic can produce disunity between the Lead Development team and the sales force.
You have to squash this problem with a dose of reality. Validate interest.
A big part of the problem is the civility of the business world. People are just too damn nice. Not so much in the Northeast of the country, where you find prospects who are refreshingly blunt. Everywhere else you can find prospects with a sickening level of civility. When prospects aren’t really interested they can often find it less painful to use indirect methods to send a rep on their way. The classic line “Send me some information” is almost always a polite way of saying, “leave me alone and don’t let the door hit you in ass.”
Lead Generation teams that qualify leads before passing them to the sales force are plagued by this problem. Guide Your Reps to Sniff out a lack of interest or a polite ‘No’ when prospecting and qualifying leads.
For example, when asking for a meeting and an acceptance includes a weasel-like response such as ‘Yes, but only if you are in the area’ — then stop and validate true interest. Coach your reps to respond in a way that directly addresses and validates interest. An example validation could be, ‘No, the rep won’t be in the area. Meeting with you is important. Do you still want to meet with a sales rep?”
Gaining Permission through Interest Validation
The process of building rapport with a prospect occurs with a Lead Development Representative (LDR). 90% of an LDR’s time is spent developing a dialogue to the point where there is permission and trust.
Prior to moving forward with qualifying questions, it’s important to verify that there is interest. Without interest, the qualification questions will be painful and likely unsuccessful. More importantly, verifying interest is a respectful and necessary step to gaining permission. Once the LDR has prompted for interest and requested a confirmation of interest, then the prospect experiences two-way communication. The prospect feels that they are in control. This approach keeps the prospect open and prevents them from closing off dialogue.
When non-interest is expressed, the prospect isn’t eliminated but is rather placed on a nurture path for follow-up later. The immediate time may not be right for the prospect, which may have an unrelated urgent issue hanging over them, or they simply may not be ready at this time. Continued nurturing will provide development of interest over time through continued opportunities to send information and make occasional contact calls and emails.
In summary, validating interest is the surest first step to deliver on the promise of a Qualified Lead to the sales force.