Stop Focusing On SAL’s!


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SALs (Sales Accepted Leads) and the resultant SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) are the Holy Grail of Marketing and Sales.

Everything we do seems focused both on improving the quality and quantity of these. The thinking is if we get the right volume, our pipeline problems go away, we easily make our numbers.

There are a lot of huge leaps in this thinking. One is the assumption that sales people are maximizing their win rates and deal values, providing great leadership, creating great value for the customers. But that’s not what this post is about.

The big issue is, should we be changing our focus? Gordon Hogg, has an outstanding post, Is sales and marketing focused on everything but the problem?

Gordon’s point is outstanding, at any time only about 4% of the market will say they are ready to buy or on a buying journey. Gordon poses the question, “What happens when we look at the other 96% of the market?”

It’s a huge issue and a huge opportunity. Let’s dive into this.

First, let’s look at the 4%, it’s those that become our MQLs, SALs, SQLs. But your competition if focusing on those as well, so it’s much tougher to compete. Even if we could identify all of them, we may not even get the chance to compete because customers may already have enough alternatives they are assessing.

But, the biggest issue about that 4% is that we are engaging them very late in their buying process. They’ve done all the heavy lifting, they’ve figured out their problem (correctly or incorrectly), they’ve started sorting out how they are going to make a buying decision, they’ve done a lot of research and self education.

As a result, we are involved in the smallest part of their buying process, our ability to differentiate ourselves, our ability to create value is seriously impacted, simply because the customer has done most of the work already.

Somehow, we need to get involved earlier in the customer buying process, but our MQLs, SALs, SQLs aren’t designed to do this.

This gets us to the other 96% of the market. Those who “aren’t ready.” Maybe we need to reconsider this. There’s a large number that may be ready, but we just haven’t reached in a meaningful way.

There’s a large number who may be in their buying process, but early on, they aren’t ready–but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help. For example, if we use Gartner data from a number of years ago, we know customers typically don’t get sales invovled until they are 57% through the buying process (other research shows it is much later). But they also show, at least 53% of buying journeys end in no decision made, and where they blow up is roughly 37% through their buying journey.

We don’t get visibility to a large number of organizations that have a need to buy and have embarked on their buying journey, but blow up and never become a SAL! This is both a huge opportunity, probably far more than the 4% we focus on, but this is where we create the most value and differentiation. The biggest challenge customers have is not making a solution selection, but developing and navigating their own process.

We have to figure out how to identify and engage them!

But that’s not all.

What about the majority of customer who haven’t recognized the need to change? Not all of them will need to change, some have already solved the problem. But a large number of them should change but have realized it. This is where insight can be leveraged with great impact. It focuses on people who have started the buying journey, inciting them to change.

All our marketing and sales efforts seem to focus on MQL, SAL, SQLs. But, somehow it seems to be the smallest part of the opportunity and the most competitive.

What if we started looking at the 96%, what might that do in helping us find opportunities and create value for our customers? What would this do to help us make our numbers?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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