The 80/20 of the 80/20 of your sales approach

You didn’t read that wrong. Qualifying is the 80/20 of sales approaches—where you spend 20% of your effort, and get 80% of your result. But there’s an 80/20 approach to qualifying as well—because 20% of customers will provide 80% of your revenue. Here’s how to find them.

The 20% of leads who generate 80% of your revenue are those suffering from “bleeding necks.” This vivid word-picture courtesy of Perry Marshall—one of today’s great marketers.

A prospect with a bleeding neck is a prospect with a dire need for your offering. He has a seriously compelling reason to want it right now.

If he doesn’t, you shouldn’t be spending manpower on him. Use marketing automation to nurture him until his neck does start to bleed.

Focus 80% of your efforts on the 20% of leads who really need you—like a guy with a hole in his neck needs an ambulance

Let me give you an example:

Living in the dry heat of Johannesburg is normally a blessing. The weather is just perfect in the summer months, with time spent chilling at the pool or cooking a tasty braai with friends and family.

A little while back, however, Johannesburg went from paradise to heat-hell, with its hottest period ever. New heat records were being set all over the place.

It was so hot that it became completely unbearable for most…except for the few people selling air conditioners. They were also breaking new records—selling more air conditioners than ever before! Fans were also sold out everywhere, with retailers unable to get enough stock. The heat drove people mad, and created a huge need.

This is what you are looking for. Not necessarily a quick, situational win—after all, an unusual boom like this can’t be sustained. I’m just using it to illustrate the principle: you need customers who have a clear need, with no doubt at all about what he wants and why.

When it comes to business, a compelling need involves either one or all of the following (arranged in order of importance):
  1. Pain to the business, or a serious inconvenience
  2. Loss of Income
  3. Potential loss of Income
  4. Potential for large savings

Often you’ll find yourself in a position where you clearly see a compelling need. It’s obvious…to you. But you’ll discover that it’s all about perspective. Some customers just don’t see things like you do—so don’t assume. Remember to ask questions!

80% of people make purchasing decisions to solve a challenge or problem. 20% of them make decisions to gain something. Another great example of the 80/20 principle in action.

Think about this in your personal life.  If someone were to save you 50% on your insurance, would that not be a compelling enough reason to move insurers?  The obvious answer might seem to be yes—but the reality is that you could have other concerns that need to be addressed.  You may simply not trust the person. Or, speaking for myself, I’ve been with my insurer for years and know they pay out when there is a problem; I’d rather pay a premium for that than risk getting tied up in red tape in a crisis.  It’s not always about the money.

That’s not to say that saving 50% on insurance isn’t a compelling enough reason for someone else.  You just can’t assume. Keep asking questions.

Don’t just ask your prospect questions; ask yourself as well

As you’re qualifying, you should be asking:

  1. Is this company aware of a clear pain or serious inconvenience that I can solve?
  2. Is this company aware that they’re losing income right now?
  3. If not, are they potentially losing out on income?
  4. Or is there potential here for large savings?

As you work down the list, you are gradually disqualifying your prospect. If you get to (4) and the answer is no, then asking further questions is pointless. Stop wasting time, and immediately move on to someone you can actually help.

If the answer to (1) or (2) is no, but (3) or (4) is yes, then prioritize that prospect accordingly. The fear of loss is always far greater than the desire for gain (80/20 again)—so if your prospect is actually aware of pain, inconvenience, or lost income right now, they are far more likely to buy than if they are just potentially losing out, or potentially gaining revenue. Prospects in the (1) and (2) buckets are more committed to finding a solution—so the sales process will probably be quicker, easier, and more likely to yield a positive outcome for everyone.

You see, this is all about focus. All about putting the majority of your effort into the small areas that yield the biggest rewards. This is the “fulcrum” that most salespeople never figure out. They spend most of their time chasing the 80% of work that yields 20% of the results.

Focus on the 20% of work that yields 80% of the results

When you do this, you turn the math upside down—and you enter what is simply a completely new level of sales skill and success.

You probably have some ideas already of how to apply the compelling need principle in your own selling. Every industry has some obvious examples of what a typical scenario looks like.

Just remember, your success is completely dependent on your customers’ success. As long as you’re looking for ways to add genuine value for your prospect’s business, and you always consider their needs first, you’ll do just fine. The moment you start focusing on your own needs, and filling your own coffers, things will start to circle the drain.