I will have been in my position at MightyData, as THE salesman or cleverly named Manager of First Impressions, for one year on July 5. It has been pointed out that I am the only team member that has not posted a blog, so it is time I get on it. I have learned a lot about our business, sales and FileMaker in the last year, but the one thing I find most valuable when talking to customers and colleagues is the use of the almighty METAPHOR.
There are a ton of them fit for the purpose of sales, and I will be referencing them from time to time. The one that came to mind when I first started making some traction with our customers was “leads are seeds.” Heck, it makes total sense when you think about the process of turning a lead into a bountiful blooming customer…plus, it rhymes!
I have to admit that I am not much of a gardener in the sense of planting a seed, but I’ve grown up in and around farmland most of my life, and the parallels between farming a crop and farming a lead are apparent. The crop that comes to mind when I think of farming a seed and turning it into a bountiful crop is corn. My neighborhood is literally surrounded by corn and bean fields, and actually used to be both before they laid streets and a power grid.
1. The Seed is Planted
In the example of corn, there is always an excitement when the farmers start planting. Summer is right around the corner! And when a lead calls in, is referred, or you make first contact, that same excitement exists. Dreams of what this lead may bring to your organization are hard to quash. You want this lead to turn into that 8-foot tall corn stalk that has 50 ears (I know that can’t really happen, but hey, this is a dream sequence) of corn sprouting out. Honestly though, you just have to wait and see if it will make it above ground first.
2. The Sprout
Once this lead has matured to a potential customer, there is a lot of care that needs to happen to make sure it can make it the rest of the way. Much like a farmer adding fertilizer and pesticides to the field to aid that little plant, you need to do your due diligence with the lead as well. You need to talk to your lead (some farmers do actually talk to their crops) and make sure you understand the situation clearly. This would be an information gathering step in the process. Talk to all key team members that have input and are part of the decision making process. If your lead feels that you are taking the time to get to know them fully, they will become a healthy enough lead when it comes time to harvest.
3. The Waiting Game
This is the part when all farmers and sales folks (see… I’m from the country) alike get a little anxious. Farmers are hoping that there is plenty of rain and sun, but not too much of either so that their crop grows as much as possible and yields as much as possible.
Salesfolks have similar worries. If too much time passes between the vetting and proposal stages or there is a lack of clear communication, you could lose the lead. If an outside voice pops-up and saturates the process too much, you could lose the deal. I would also compare it to “pest control”. Sometimes a person that has had nothing to do with the process comes in and makes demands that you had no idea were coming.
This can catch you off guard, and that is why I have learned time and again…flush out all decision makers as EARLY in the process as you can. If you wait too long, your crop will become overtaken by weeds and eaten by bugs and thus become non harvestable.
You might say, “Dave, corn takes 2-3 months to grow, can a lead really take that long to close?” And I will tell you “yes!” I have a lead that has been in our pipe for almost my entire time here. All leads have different germination periods. I have made gains with them but I am just waiting to start producing some ears of corn. Ten months of staying in touch means a lot to a lead. It shows you haven’t given up and you believe it will yield a great return.
4. The Harvest
Assuming you have vetted and properly cared for your lead, it is time to harvest. This is the point where a proposal would be presented and hopefully the hard work you put in translates to a payday. Now I have had a situation where I went to pull the husks back on an ear of corn, and an ugly little critter reared its head. The same has happened with a lead.
We had proposed to both the initial contact and the president of the company and they both agreed and thought the proposal was great. Just as we were waiting on the signed proposal, a mid level manager popped her head in and made demands that were not on the proposal. When we said no problem, we just need to adjust the price, they got upset and the deal was lost. This is a prime example of how simple but important the previous step is.
But hoping all went well, you present the proposal and you get a yes. Time to pop open a beer, or your beverage of choice, and celebrate for raising a successful lead! If you just think of your lead as an ear of corn or some basil in your herb garden, you will see the importance of caring for this lead like you do your plants. Give it a good mix of water, sunlight and fertilizer and you should be able to reap the benefits.