The telephone rings or maybe you get an email. It’s a human being potentially interested in your offering. A warm lead—hurrah! But are you sure it’s “warm”? For that matter, are you sure it’s even a lead?
How much time have you spent chasing after supposedly warm leads that turned out not to be bona fide opportunities after all? How much time have you spent interacting with prospects who are “just looking,” who are “gathering information” or who “need to check with someone else before making a decision”?
Prospecting is not getting easier. On the contrary, it’s getting harder. Prospects have shorter attention spans and a lot of options. In addition, there are only so many hours in the day you can spend looking for new business. It makes sense, then, to restrict your time to the people who are most likely to buy what you’re selling. Unfortunately, far too many sales professionals spend far too much time chasing after “inquiries” that turn out to be worthless.
My friend and colleague, Bob Bly, has drawn the following helpful distinctions:
Suspect. Anyone in the universe who could possibly buy your offering.
Prospect. Someone with the money, authority and desire to buy your offering.
Inquiry. A contact from a suspect.
Lead. A contact from a prospect.