Defining Leads for Marketing & Sales
Managing The Pipeline (All)
Digital Deal Rooms - Top Uses
The New B2B Sales Game
Your Story is Your Strategy
The New B2B Sales Game
Prospecting with Video
The New B2B Sales Game
Selling for "Non-Salespeople"
The New B2B Sales Game
How Sales Coaching is Meant to Work
Managing The Pipeline (All)
Getting Your Sales Pitch to Echo
Opportunity Creation (All)
Reviving Stalled Deals [Part 1]
Opportunity Capture (All)
Think "Warm Up" Versus "Call Planning"
Opportunity Creation (All)
The Sales Pipeline Gamechanger
Managing The Pipeline (All)
What is an "Income-Producing" Opportunity?
Managing The Pipeline (All)

The Crucial Skill That Creates the Quality Leads You're Looking For

CEO to Head of Sales: How are things looking for month end?

Head of Sales: If we had better leads coming through, we'd be in better shape ...

The vast majority of sellers are secretly hoping the "right" lead will land on their desktop. By "right" I mean someone who will buy today. The bad news is that all over the world in every industry, only 6% of the market is in the market today. That's also the 6% that looks at 6+ vendors to end up with three quotes. Not exactly attractive sales work.

To short circuit the hard work of "finding" good leads, the sales world qualifies everything and everyone to death. We select only prospects where we think there is a hint of a sale or "pain". Or where they might be using a competitor we think is "crap". Then when we do get to talk to buyers, we qualify them out because there were no buying signals, and when there is what appears be the faintest ray of hope (one of those magic buying signals), we send a proposal. All this adds up to unreliable forecasts and buyers with a bad taste in their mouth.

In sales, we talk about finding or generating leads, as if they were hiding somewhere or you can spin them up out of thin air. Sales is not a finding business: it's a creation business. That's what makes it so hard; we create, we don't find markets. It's why "good" salespeople are so valuable, because they can create what doesn't really exist - profitable relationships. The real scarcity is not "leads"; it's the skill that creates the relationship we call an opportunity. It's the skill that converts a lead into the opportunity. But most sales operations expect a lead to be ready to close.

The Crucial Skill is Exploration (and not "Discovery" nor "Asking Questions")

The  crucial skill required to create opportunities is exploration or specifically, the skill to explore possibilities, - and leave selling and sales outside the door. It might seem like a general capability everyone has - including all those natural-born salespeople - but if it was, there would be a lot more quality leads and opportunities to go around.

The real scarcity is not "leads"; it's the skill that creates the relationship we call an opportunity.

Exploration uses a wide lens; it uses peripheral rather than central vision. Traditional discovery and "asking questions" uses central vision- highly focused information gathering to the point of being diagnostic. If discovery is done from the brain, exploration is done from the heart. Exploring possibilities is broader, but don't interpret that as easy nor talking to people about your mutual interest in weekend kayaking. It takes in these four approaches:

1. A wide ranging knowledge of the world the buyer lives in, without having to be a 100% expert. It shows you have invested time in the first place. And it allows you to test if the knowledge you gained or conclusions or assumptions you arrived at from your research are valid.

2. Learning what the customer seems to care most about and what their role has mandated them to care about. (This piece requires questions.)

3. Getting a sense of the consensus challenges that your contact faces every day, even over small issues. This partly helps to answer the question, what would I see and learn if I worked here? 

4. Sharing theories, hypotheses, approaches and observations about issues and topics.

Exploration is not vague conversation nor is its goal friendly relations: it's flexible but structured and the goal is to prove to the buyer you are equipped to engage in a way that is valuable. One of the most valuable mindsets needed to implement meaningful exploration is this: don't let the "deal" get in the way. Leave the selling outside the door. Engage in a way that is useful to the buyer or group, even if they never uses you (most won't anyway). This is the antithesis of traditional selling, and quite hard to adjust to, unless you have prepared for it.

Exploration uses a wide lens; it uses peripheral rather than central vision.

Just-Before Planning

To do effective exploration, plan 2-4 "big" opening questions, observations or hypotheses. If the prospect leads the conversation, the job of the seller is to follow but also to provide a roadmap. If you have done some prior research, there are usually plenty of "jump off" points that will ignite the exploration. This is not "simple" work. I call this "just before" planning, because it is best done close to the time of the call or meeting. I also recommend that you use a format or checklist that prompts you to consider key issues.

Quality Dialogue is what creates opportunities. Sales needs to own this ...

Lead generation (whether you call the leads MQLs or SQLs or whatever) is ultimately a sales responsibility. Marketing can support, but it's the sales organization who has the highest stake in the number and quality of leads produced. Leads and opportunities are not something you "find"; they have to be created. There are two mindsets to choose from:

Mindset #1: The "where are the leads" mindset works on the assumption that generating leads and prospects is always someone else's job and that someone else can magically cook up par-baked leads that sales can "close". This mindset has plagued sales for years; it's no coincidence that the most junior, under-paid people are given the job of lead generation, while "senior" salespeople wait to be served at table with "qualified" leads. If you are being served up leads, the best someone else can give you are "leads" where the company and person is relevant for what you do. But that's about it.

Mindset #2: The alternative mindset is "quality dialogue". It's the quality of the conversation the salesperson provides that creates leads and opportunities that are income producing. Marketing can unearth some of the 6% in-the-market prospects, but at best they can produce relevant names and companies, but not much more. It's not their job. It's the job of a salesperson to take what is essentially "data" and convert them into relationships. Otherwise, what is it sales is meant to be doing? If it's closing easy leads, surely that should be the low-paid job, not lead generation?

The crucial link in the lead and opportunity creation chain is the ability of the seller to explore possibilities with the prospect(s). This is a subtle skill, requiring finesse in terms of conversation management and the arrangement of language. When this is done well, the buyer will engage by revealing their true circumstances and thinking. It's the equivalent of the clouds separating and the sun breaking through. You can even feel it happening as the happy hormones take over, because of a job well done. Treat exploration as a stage in a conversation that requires preparation and practice. When it's done well, all the other parts move more easily, including discovery. It's one of those one-degree moves that lands you a a different, but much better place or destination in the company of your prospect, who is more than happy to participate and join the story.

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Defining Leads for Marketing & Sales
Managing The Pipeline (All)
Digital Deal Rooms - Top Uses
The New B2B Sales Game
Your Story is Your Strategy
The New B2B Sales Game
Prospecting with Video
The New B2B Sales Game
Selling for "Non-Salespeople"
The New B2B Sales Game
How Sales Coaching is Meant to Work
Managing The Pipeline (All)
Getting Your Sales Pitch to Echo
Opportunity Creation (All)
Reviving Stalled Deals [Part 1]
Opportunity Capture (All)
Think "Warm Up" Versus "Call Planning"
Opportunity Creation (All)
The Sales Pipeline Gamechanger
Managing The Pipeline (All)
What is an "Income-Producing" Opportunity?
Managing The Pipeline (All)

The Crucial Skill That Creates the Quality Leads You're Looking For

CEO to Head of Sales: How are things looking for month end?

Head of Sales: If we had better leads coming through, we'd be in better shape ...

The vast majority of sellers are secretly hoping the "right" lead will land on their desktop. By "right" I mean someone who will buy today. The bad news is that all over the world in every industry, only 6% of the market is in the market today. That's also the 6% that looks at 6+ vendors to end up with three quotes. Not exactly attractive sales work.

To short circuit the hard work of "finding" good leads, the sales world qualifies everything and everyone to death. We select only prospects where we think there is a hint of a sale or "pain". Or where they might be using a competitor we think is "crap". Then when we do get to talk to buyers, we qualify them out because there were no buying signals, and when there is what appears be the faintest ray of hope (one of those magic buying signals), we send a proposal. All this adds up to unreliable forecasts and buyers with a bad taste in their mouth.

In sales, we talk about finding or generating leads, as if they were hiding somewhere or you can spin them up out of thin air. Sales is not a finding business: it's a creation business. That's what makes it so hard; we create, we don't find markets. It's why "good" salespeople are so valuable, because they can create what doesn't really exist - profitable relationships. The real scarcity is not "leads"; it's the skill that creates the relationship we call an opportunity. It's the skill that converts a lead into the opportunity. But most sales operations expect a lead to be ready to close.

The Crucial Skill is Exploration (and not "Discovery" nor "Asking Questions")

The  crucial skill required to create opportunities is exploration or specifically, the skill to explore possibilities, - and leave selling and sales outside the door. It might seem like a general capability everyone has - including all those natural-born salespeople - but if it was, there would be a lot more quality leads and opportunities to go around.

The real scarcity is not "leads"; it's the skill that creates the relationship we call an opportunity.

Exploration uses a wide lens; it uses peripheral rather than central vision. Traditional discovery and "asking questions" uses central vision- highly focused information gathering to the point of being diagnostic. If discovery is done from the brain, exploration is done from the heart. Exploring possibilities is broader, but don't interpret that as easy nor talking to people about your mutual interest in weekend kayaking. It takes in these four approaches:

1. A wide ranging knowledge of the world the buyer lives in, without having to be a 100% expert. It shows you have invested time in the first place. And it allows you to test if the knowledge you gained or conclusions or assumptions you arrived at from your research are valid.

2. Learning what the customer seems to care most about and what their role has mandated them to care about. (This piece requires questions.)

3. Getting a sense of the consensus challenges that your contact faces every day, even over small issues. This partly helps to answer the question, what would I see and learn if I worked here? 

4. Sharing theories, hypotheses, approaches and observations about issues and topics.

Exploration is not vague conversation nor is its goal friendly relations: it's flexible but structured and the goal is to prove to the buyer you are equipped to engage in a way that is valuable. One of the most valuable mindsets needed to implement meaningful exploration is this: don't let the "deal" get in the way. Leave the selling outside the door. Engage in a way that is useful to the buyer or group, even if they never uses you (most won't anyway). This is the antithesis of traditional selling, and quite hard to adjust to, unless you have prepared for it.

Exploration uses a wide lens; it uses peripheral rather than central vision.

Just-Before Planning

To do effective exploration, plan 2-4 "big" opening questions, observations or hypotheses. If the prospect leads the conversation, the job of the seller is to follow but also to provide a roadmap. If you have done some prior research, there are usually plenty of "jump off" points that will ignite the exploration. This is not "simple" work. I call this "just before" planning, because it is best done close to the time of the call or meeting. I also recommend that you use a format or checklist that prompts you to consider key issues.

Quality Dialogue is what creates opportunities. Sales needs to own this ...

Lead generation (whether you call the leads MQLs or SQLs or whatever) is ultimately a sales responsibility. Marketing can support, but it's the sales organization who has the highest stake in the number and quality of leads produced. Leads and opportunities are not something you "find"; they have to be created. There are two mindsets to choose from:

Mindset #1: The "where are the leads" mindset works on the assumption that generating leads and prospects is always someone else's job and that someone else can magically cook up par-baked leads that sales can "close". This mindset has plagued sales for years; it's no coincidence that the most junior, under-paid people are given the job of lead generation, while "senior" salespeople wait to be served at table with "qualified" leads. If you are being served up leads, the best someone else can give you are "leads" where the company and person is relevant for what you do. But that's about it.

Mindset #2: The alternative mindset is "quality dialogue". It's the quality of the conversation the salesperson provides that creates leads and opportunities that are income producing. Marketing can unearth some of the 6% in-the-market prospects, but at best they can produce relevant names and companies, but not much more. It's not their job. It's the job of a salesperson to take what is essentially "data" and convert them into relationships. Otherwise, what is it sales is meant to be doing? If it's closing easy leads, surely that should be the low-paid job, not lead generation?

The crucial link in the lead and opportunity creation chain is the ability of the seller to explore possibilities with the prospect(s). This is a subtle skill, requiring finesse in terms of conversation management and the arrangement of language. When this is done well, the buyer will engage by revealing their true circumstances and thinking. It's the equivalent of the clouds separating and the sun breaking through. You can even feel it happening as the happy hormones take over, because of a job well done. Treat exploration as a stage in a conversation that requires preparation and practice. When it's done well, all the other parts move more easily, including discovery. It's one of those one-degree moves that lands you a a different, but much better place or destination in the company of your prospect, who is more than happy to participate and join the story.

Defining Leads for Marketing & Sales
Managing The Pipeline (All)
Digital Deal Rooms - Top Uses
The New B2B Sales Game
Your Story is Your Strategy
The New B2B Sales Game
Prospecting with Video
The New B2B Sales Game
Selling for "Non-Salespeople"
The New B2B Sales Game
How Sales Coaching is Meant to Work
Managing The Pipeline (All)
Getting Your Sales Pitch to Echo
Opportunity Creation (All)
Reviving Stalled Deals [Part 1]
Opportunity Capture (All)
Think "Warm Up" Versus "Call Planning"
Opportunity Creation (All)
The Sales Pipeline Gamechanger
Managing The Pipeline (All)
What is an "Income-Producing" Opportunity?
Managing The Pipeline (All)

The Crucial Skill That Creates the Quality Leads You're Looking For

CEO to Head of Sales: How are things looking for month end?

Head of Sales: If we had better leads coming through, we'd be in better shape ...

The vast majority of sellers are secretly hoping the "right" lead will land on their desktop. By "right" I mean someone who will buy today. The bad news is that all over the world in every industry, only 6% of the market is in the market today. That's also the 6% that looks at 6+ vendors to end up with three quotes. Not exactly attractive sales work.

To short circuit the hard work of "finding" good leads, the sales world qualifies everything and everyone to death. We select only prospects where we think there is a hint of a sale or "pain". Or where they might be using a competitor we think is "crap". Then when we do get to talk to buyers, we qualify them out because there were no buying signals, and when there is what appears be the faintest ray of hope (one of those magic buying signals), we send a proposal. All this adds up to unreliable forecasts and buyers with a bad taste in their mouth.

In sales, we talk about finding or generating leads, as if they were hiding somewhere or you can spin them up out of thin air. Sales is not a finding business: it's a creation business. That's what makes it so hard; we create, we don't find markets. It's why "good" salespeople are so valuable, because they can create what doesn't really exist - profitable relationships. The real scarcity is not "leads"; it's the skill that creates the relationship we call an opportunity. It's the skill that converts a lead into the opportunity. But most sales operations expect a lead to be ready to close.

The Crucial Skill is Exploration (and not "Discovery" nor "Asking Questions")

The  crucial skill required to create opportunities is exploration or specifically, the skill to explore possibilities, - and leave selling and sales outside the door. It might seem like a general capability everyone has - including all those natural-born salespeople - but if it was, there would be a lot more quality leads and opportunities to go around.

The real scarcity is not "leads"; it's the skill that creates the relationship we call an opportunity.

Exploration uses a wide lens; it uses peripheral rather than central vision. Traditional discovery and "asking questions" uses central vision- highly focused information gathering to the point of being diagnostic. If discovery is done from the brain, exploration is done from the heart. Exploring possibilities is broader, but don't interpret that as easy nor talking to people about your mutual interest in weekend kayaking. It takes in these four approaches:

1. A wide ranging knowledge of the world the buyer lives in, without having to be a 100% expert. It shows you have invested time in the first place. And it allows you to test if the knowledge you gained or conclusions or assumptions you arrived at from your research are valid.

2. Learning what the customer seems to care most about and what their role has mandated them to care about. (This piece requires questions.)

3. Getting a sense of the consensus challenges that your contact faces every day, even over small issues. This partly helps to answer the question, what would I see and learn if I worked here? 

4. Sharing theories, hypotheses, approaches and observations about issues and topics.

Exploration is not vague conversation nor is its goal friendly relations: it's flexible but structured and the goal is to prove to the buyer you are equipped to engage in a way that is valuable. One of the most valuable mindsets needed to implement meaningful exploration is this: don't let the "deal" get in the way. Leave the selling outside the door. Engage in a way that is useful to the buyer or group, even if they never uses you (most won't anyway). This is the antithesis of traditional selling, and quite hard to adjust to, unless you have prepared for it.

Exploration uses a wide lens; it uses peripheral rather than central vision.

Just-Before Planning

To do effective exploration, plan 2-4 "big" opening questions, observations or hypotheses. If the prospect leads the conversation, the job of the seller is to follow but also to provide a roadmap. If you have done some prior research, there are usually plenty of "jump off" points that will ignite the exploration. This is not "simple" work. I call this "just before" planning, because it is best done close to the time of the call or meeting. I also recommend that you use a format or checklist that prompts you to consider key issues.

Quality Dialogue is what creates opportunities. Sales needs to own this ...

Lead generation (whether you call the leads MQLs or SQLs or whatever) is ultimately a sales responsibility. Marketing can support, but it's the sales organization who has the highest stake in the number and quality of leads produced. Leads and opportunities are not something you "find"; they have to be created. There are two mindsets to choose from:

Mindset #1: The "where are the leads" mindset works on the assumption that generating leads and prospects is always someone else's job and that someone else can magically cook up par-baked leads that sales can "close". This mindset has plagued sales for years; it's no coincidence that the most junior, under-paid people are given the job of lead generation, while "senior" salespeople wait to be served at table with "qualified" leads. If you are being served up leads, the best someone else can give you are "leads" where the company and person is relevant for what you do. But that's about it.

Mindset #2: The alternative mindset is "quality dialogue". It's the quality of the conversation the salesperson provides that creates leads and opportunities that are income producing. Marketing can unearth some of the 6% in-the-market prospects, but at best they can produce relevant names and companies, but not much more. It's not their job. It's the job of a salesperson to take what is essentially "data" and convert them into relationships. Otherwise, what is it sales is meant to be doing? If it's closing easy leads, surely that should be the low-paid job, not lead generation?

The crucial link in the lead and opportunity creation chain is the ability of the seller to explore possibilities with the prospect(s). This is a subtle skill, requiring finesse in terms of conversation management and the arrangement of language. When this is done well, the buyer will engage by revealing their true circumstances and thinking. It's the equivalent of the clouds separating and the sun breaking through. You can even feel it happening as the happy hormones take over, because of a job well done. Treat exploration as a stage in a conversation that requires preparation and practice. When it's done well, all the other parts move more easily, including discovery. It's one of those one-degree moves that lands you a a different, but much better place or destination in the company of your prospect, who is more than happy to participate and join the story.

Want To Be Notified When New Content is Released?

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.