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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistMon, Aug 25, 2014 8 min read

Sales School 201: Develop A Wider Sales Funnel And Shorter Sales Cycle


Our Sales School series is all about optimizing your sales processes: expanding your sales funnel and closing leads more effectively. Evaluating and improving your strategy is a stressful endeavor, so use our brief overview to guide your journey to the best sales and marketing solutions.

Our most recent post, Sales School 101, addressed the importance of evaluating the efficacy of your marketing system's lead generation, sales strategies and reporting capabilities. Lesson 2 explores how the right research reveals new opportunities for developing, nurturing and converting high-quality leads.

Lesson 2: Do Your Homework

Even the strongest lead generation strategies are rendered weak by ineffective qualifying processes. It doesn't matter how many leads you have if you don't know what to do with them. The secret to high-quality leads lies in the amount of time and effort you dedicate to researching your prospects.

The Five W's

This method held true in grade school, and it's still an effective (albeit basic) approach to research when developing buyer personas.

Who: Who are you talking to?

Of all the W's, this is the most important because it forms the basis of the remaining points. You need to develop complete profiles of your ideal customers, including:

  • Demographics, sociographics and psychographics
  • Physical attributes
  • Habits
  • Buying behaviors
  • Learning style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

Once you've gotten a handle on who your customers are, you know how to target your lead generation strategies. The rest of the components follow.

What: What do they like?

In order to deliver sales and marketing solutions that appeal to your ideal customers, you need to know what they like. As the old saying goes, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Why? Because flies don't particularly like vinegar. Ask yourself:

  • What do they like to read, share and comment on?
  • What products or services are they most interested in?
  • What types of sales pitches or marketing tactics resonate with them?
  • What pains are they experiencing, and what makes your solution best to solve those pains?

If your marketing and sales strategy doesn't entice your ideal customers, it's not working. You need to tailor your sales and marketing solutions to the people who matter most: your prospects.

When: When are they listening?

When it comes to strategic sales and marketing, it's all about timing. Don't waste valuable time and effort on sales pitches and advertisements only to let them fall on deaf ears. Your "when" analysis should cover:

  • When (what time of day) are they available?
  • When did they first engage your business?
  • When do you expect their pains to become acute?
  • When (what part of the week, month, year, sales cycle, etc.) do they usually make purchases?
  • When are they most likely to need – and be open to – your help?

If you know who you're talking to and what they like, but you're reaching them at the wrong time, your message doesn't get through. Center your lead generation strategies around those who need your help, now and in the future.

Where: Where are they hanging out?

In order to find your prospects and customers, you need to know where they spend most of their time. When developing your buyer profile, ask:

  • Where are they most socially active? (LinkedIn? Facebook?)
  • Where do they live, work and play?
  • Where would they encounter your business? (online, physical storefront, billboard)
  • Where do they look for advice on products and purchases, and to whom do they turn?
  • Where are their attention spans and mental real estate least compromised (by distractions)? Where are they more likely to be receptive to your message?
  • Where are they in the consumer decision-making process, your sales funnel or your pipeline?

Think of it like a fishing trip: You're going out for striped bass (who); you know that they love eel (what) and that they're rarely out after dusk (when). But if you use all that valuable data to cast a line in a spring-fed pond, you'll never get a bite. Your lead generation strategy, just like a fishing trip, needs to be planned intelligently based on the needs of your prospects.

Why: Why do they need your help?

Consumers are looking to you to solve a pain – one they've experienced for a while that just became acute, one that just reared its ugly head or one they anticipate having in the near future. When you develop the "why" portion of your consumer profile, make sure you address the following questions:

  • Why is your solution or product better than your competitors'?
  • Why should your prospects choose to do business with you?
  • Why is your offering worth its price tag, i.e., what benefits does it bring?
  • Why is your company better? (intangibles: service, support, warranties, guarantees)

If you don't know the value you bring to the table, your customers don't either. Customize your marketing and sales strategies to make sure your prospects understand what you're offering and why they need it.

The Five W's provide a great starting point, but there's always room for enhancement. The amount of effort you dedicate to developing these profiles directly correlates to the accuracy and detail you attain. In short, you get out of it what you put in. A time-consuming but critically important endeavor, these profiles set the stage for the sales and marketing tactics you employ and the results you achieve.

Doing your homework is essential for high-quality lead generation and conversion. If you take the time to develop a comprehensive buyer persona, you increase your chances of seeing higher-quality prospects and greater lead conversion over the long haul. By delivering value to all of your prospects – even the ones who aren't quite ready to buy – you solidify your business as a trustworthy source of information, advice and services.

To learn more about generating high-quality leads, stay tuned for Sales School 301, our third lesson in widening your sales funnel and shortening your sales cycle.

Start Today Tip: Develop a deep understanding of your target customers: Peer into their businesses, feel the pains they're experiencing and explore what's important to them. When you gain intimate knowledge of your prospects, sales opportunities open up, fresh conversations begin and new avenues are built to access your customer base. Even better, you know how to tailor your sales tactics for the prospects you have and the ones you want.


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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.