In previous articles we’ve discussed how to generate leads and why sales is everything in your construction business. Now let’s talk about how to properly pursue potential clients – known as prospecting.
What is Prospecting?
Prospecting starts with a lead. A lead is a person or business who may be interested in buying your products or services. As in, they have not yet shown you the money – but they might. Your ultimate goal is to turn a potential customer into an actual customer. This process from lead to paying customer is prospecting.
What is a Prospect?
In our article, Why Sales Is Everything in Your Construction Business, we talked about all the steps you may take to qualify a lead. Qualifying a lead is part of the overall sales process. A prospect is a qualified lead. You have gone through a qualification process to determine how likely it is that they will buy from your company.
The amount of time you spend qualifying a lead should correlate with the lead’s potential. You should have a list of pre-qualification questions that will help you determine the amount of time and resources you should devote to a particular lead.
What questions will let you know right away that a lead will never become a prospect? Here are some examples:
Where is the lead located?
For most types of construction companies, the lead must live or do business in the area they serve. If they don’t, they are not worth pursuing. However, never completely discount a lead based on location because people do move. Or they may know someone in your area. So keep them on your email list.
What’s the Size of Their Business?
If your construction company mainly serves businesses, the lead may need to be a company of a certain size to be worth pursuing. We tend to think they must be large enough – but your construction business may be focused on smaller companies. Asking questions about the number of employees, customers, and revenue may move them from lead to prospect. Or not.
What’s Their Industry?
The lead may be the right size, but the wrong industry. If there are industries that you don’t currently serve, then the lead is not worth pursuing. For example, perhaps your construction business serves small restaurants but is not presently setup to handle large apartment complexes.
Consider other criteria that may prevent you from qualifying a lead. Here are examples of questions you might include on your pre-qualification list:
Where did the lead originate? Just knowing where the lead came from can place them at the top – or bottom – of your list. An example of a strong lead based on origin is a referral from a good customer.
A lead who takes the time to fill out an informational form on your website, sign up for a newsletter, or download a design guide may automatically prequalify them.
The lead may meet your ideal customer’s profile. (Customer profiles started with your business plan and likely evolved or expanded based on your sales and marketing.)
You may reach out to the lead directly and ask prequalifying questions such as project budget and timeline that will prequalify them. If a lead is just thinking about maybe doing a project next year, they should be placed low on your prospecting list.
There are sophisticated tools that can help you learn more about your lead such as Lusha or Crunchbase. However, for the average construction company, there are low-cost methods to research and prequalify your leads. They include:
You can reach out to the prospect with a quick email or phone call to ask a few prequalifying questions. Have you ever received a call from a mortgage company? They may ask if you’re interested in refinancing your home. If you are indeed interested and start asking about rates, they transfer you over to a “mortgage specialist.” You have just been prequalified as a prospect.
The Prospect’s Website
If your lead is a business, visit their website. It may contain information that prequalifies them such as how long they’ve been in business, where they do business, and how many employees they have.
You can learn a lot about a lead through their Facebook page, Twitter feed, and LinkedIn profile. In addition to specific information, you can get a sense of their communication style and topics of interest. LinkedIn can give you information about the lead such as their job title and company.
Work with your sales team to come up with a list of pre-qualifying questions. If you’re a one-person company, it’s even more critical to determine what puts a lead at the top of your prospecting list.
Unless the lead is someone you don’t ever want to business with, maintain the lines of communication. This means minimally keeping them on your emailing list. Things change and a dead lead today could be a live prospect tomorrow. This includes leads that didn’t qualify because you presently don’t do business in their area or with their industry. You may branch out in the future. As long as the cost to stay in contact is minimal, why not?
By now you should have enough information to prioritize your leads. You, obviously, want to spend the most time with leads who, based on your prequalification and research, have the highest chance of become prospects. A quick way to prioritize leads is by developing a scoring system.
Lead Scoring System
A lead scoring system can be as simple as a spreadsheet. Larger construction companies may use complex algorithms within a software program to capture and analyze data on prospects. No matter how fancy you get, the old adage applies: garbage in is garbage out. Never forget that each lead should be scored on things that matter.
What’s worked in the past isn’t a guarantee that it will work in the future – but it’s a good place to start. Look at the leads that are now your customers. What, if anything, do they have in common? Do the leads that were converted to customers:
- Originate more often from one source?
- Took similar actions – such as downloading a design guide?
- Are often from a particular-sized company?
- Are often in certain industries?
The opposite applies. Are there leads that never become customers that share common traits? Leads with those traits should be scored lower. Those leads with the attributes of leads that were converted to customers would receive a higher score.
Lead Scoring Examples
Your research of historical data may show, for example, that some actions visitors to your website take result in stronger leads. Or that leads from particular geographic areas buy more often. Here’s how you might score in those situations.
- Visiting your pricing page earns a lead 5 points.
- Downloading a design guide earns a lead 10 points.
- Leads located in City A earn 5 points.
- Leads located in City B earn 10 points.
You want to use your historical data to give more weight to, in these examples, leads from City B who downloaded a design guide. It’s doesn’t mean that the lead from City A who looked at your pricing page won’t buy from you. It’s that based on historical data, they are less likely to buy and therefore should not be the first lead you contact. Focus your prospecting on your strongest qualified leads.
You have now prequalified, scored, and prioritized your leads. They are now qualified prospects that you will pursue. You want to identify the key decision maker, understand their decision making process, schedule a meeting, and ask for the sale. Let’s walk through each step.
Key Decision Maker
Obviously, you don’t want to spend a lot of time with a lead who does not have the power to approve the purchase of a product or service. A lead who came to your website and filled out an informational form may or may not be the key decision maker. They may have influence, however, over the key decision maker. So you want to stay on their good side. But quickly find an opportunity to directly ask them who will make the final decision on whether to buy.
Decision Making Process
You should ask your lead some questions to understand their decision making process. Your goal is to schedule a meeting with the ultimate decision maker to discuss their specific requirements. It may take several meetings to finalize requirements and, hopefully, close the deal.
These questions mainly apply to doing business with other companies (known as B2B or Business to Business).
- How does your company make buying decisions?
- Are there several departments involved? Which ones?
- How many people must approve the purchase? How long does it typically take?
- And the most important question: When do they plan to make a decision on buying this product or service?
Especially in larger companies, it may take a while to schedule a meeting with the key decision maker.
Residential or Small Businesses
For those selling to residential customers or small businesses, you still want to determine the key decision makers and when they plan to buy. Don’t make assumptions that, say, the husband will make the final decision. Or even that the owner of the small business will decide. There may be adult children or an accountant behind the scenes who actually make the final decision.