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Startup sales: #6: Pre-qualification and triage

First, second, third, fourth, fifth parts. Now sixth part:

#6: Pre-qualification and triage

Leads come in all shapes and sizes. Most of them are "unqualified", basically complete unknowns. In fact, to some extent, all of them are, until information attached to them is acquired and verified.

Even in a two-people company, there are good leads, not-so-good leads, and great leads. Being able to tell those apart allows you to focus on the kinds of clients who will give you the best bang for your buck, both in terms of return and in terms of effort spent selling.

This is where triage and pre-qualification can make a big difference, by allowing you to focus your best salesperson's energy on the leads where she can make the most difference.

Pre-qualification is basically gathering information on the lead before contacting them. Ideally, what you want there is a type of research that someone can perform quickly, efficiently, without thinking about it too much and without having to interact with people (because that takes a lot of time). That requires you to figure out what key bits of information are both important and attainable when you're about to call a lead.

There are various tools you can use to help with this, from simply browsing the lead's website and extracting information from there, to using tools like DueDil to dig up some financials, or even using LinkedIn and other tools to rummage around. Ideally, though, you want a simple process that can be carried out in a few minutes, so that it can plug into any lead generation process, and turn those unqualified leads into leads with basic information available.

Once you have these fundamental bits of info, the next step is to triage them. The simplest split is: great, ok, not that great. Soon enough, if you have decent lead generation in place, you should get more leads than you can handle. At this point, triage becomes very important: why waste your time chasing leads that will take a lot of convincing and return little money, when you have bigger fish waiting?

So, pre-qualification gives you the information you need to do triage, and triage enables you to help your salespeople (even, or especially, if you only have one or two) focus on the best leads.

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