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How to Quickly Focus on Opportunities That Intend to Buy

The following is from one of the organizations that allow us to guest post some of their great content, Sales Benchmark Index.  You can find the original post here. It has been modified slightly for presentation here.

As a sales rep, you need to tell the difference between opportunities that are just interested from those that intend to buy.  Today’s post will define interest verses intent and why that matters to you.  You’ll get three questions to ask about your opportunities to quickly identify those that intend to buy so you can close more business.

If you’re saying “I know which of my opportunities intend to buy and which are just interested”, stop reading now.  But if you’re like most sales reps, opportunities that are just interested are getting into the pipeline more often.

In fact, CSO Insights reports that the percent of deals that result in a “no decision” has increased 53% over the past 6 years.  Many of those “no decisions” never had the intent to buy.

We naturally spend time with those showing interest.  It can seem like a short distance across the bridge from interest to intent.  But as far as your paycheck is concerned, “I’m just looking” is a world away from “I’m buying”.

Trying to win business from someone who has not yet decided to buy is a sure way to get frustrated and waste your time.  Buyers move fast today but they set a pace based on their own situation.

The very best companies use lead generation resources to build interest.  They free reps to work opportunities that have moved toward buying intent.  To learn how the best companies are getting more opportunities to their reps that intend to buy, click here.

Interest and Intent Defined

When a prospect gets their attention drawn to something, that’s interest.  Information is gathered – web-sites visited, white papers downloaded, etc.  But there’s no plan to buy – to take action and solve a problem or avoid a risk.

In contrast, a prospect that has decided to take action to solve a problem, gain a valued benefit or remove a risk has intent to buy.  Now beyond interest, they are taking steps directed at making a purchase.

Quickly Tell the Difference

So, how do you tell the difference?  Both are collecting information.  Both have shown interest.  You need to answer all three of these questions about every one of your opportunities:

  • Is there pressure facing your prospect to take action – either inside their company or outside from competitors or customers – and is it strong enough to move them from interest to intent?
  • Are there personal benefits the prospect gets by taking action and will those benefits be enough to cause them to act?
  • Is there some personal risk to the prospect (loss of job, loss of status, loss of resources) and is avoiding that risk important enough to drive their action?

If you asked these questions about all the opportunites that bought from you in the past, you would have answered “Yes” to at least one – before they bought.

Get back to the basics of understanding what motivates the buyer.

Sure there are other questions that need to be answered to get to the close.  Do they have the authority?  Will your products/services make the final cut?  But don’t get ahead of the potential buyer – they need to have intent before they consider options and commit to you.

How do You Like to Buy?

What motivated you to buy the last time you were in the market for a new car?  Maybe you felt an itch for a change.  Perhaps a friend got a new SUV and the itch grew.  Repair costs that came in higher than expected?  Whatever the reason, you became interested in what’s out there.  You began to pay more attention, and gathered some info.

Then came a tipping point.  It could have been another repair bill, more dissatisfaction with your current car or maybe you got a raise.  Something motivated you to become more than interested.  You decided that a new car could solve a problem, bring you benefits or remove pressure.  And, you figured that the costs of buying a new car outweighed the costs of not taking action.

You crossed the bridge to intent and actively started weighing options that would fit your situation.  You came to that decision on your own – no one was going to push you there.  Often called a compelling event, you were no longer curious; you moved forward with the intent to buy.

Go the Extra Step

Review your pipeline and separate the interested opportunities from those with intent to buy using the questions above.  If you don’t yet know the answers, dig until you do.  Stick with this approach by always asking yourself these questions.  Focus on those with intent – your “no decisions” will drop and your close rate will improve.

Here are some additional actions to take:

If many of your leads turn out to be ”just interested”, show marketing how the best companies are improving their lead generation efforts.  This link from Vince Koehler will give your marketing team great tools to get their Lead Generation efforts soaring.

As you gain momentum, build on your success and don’t question it – just keep selling.  No need to tell your boss – if he’s paying attention, he’ll come to you and ask what your secret is.  As you close more business, you might even consider buying a new car – don’t worry about interest or intent – just enjoy the moment because you’ve earned it.

Learn 5 Selling Strategies for 2013 with our complimentary ebook.

5 Selling Strategies

A new framework for sales effectiveness that every sales leader and sales rep should know to deal with changing buying and selling dynamics driven by customer power, social media, and organizational complexity.

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