A few years ago when I started at White Space, a friend sent us a promising lead. A growing telecom company needed marketing strategy and execution support.
Ilene and I had just returned from Hubspot’s annual INBOUND conference and we were pumped. The ideas were flowing as fast as our adrenaline. Our initial phone calls with this company were lengthy, lots of indications that we had what they needed, and our meetings were peppered with the appropriate amount of humor.
We had this.
Being the eager beavers we were, Ilene and I stuffed 28 slides with every idea we could fit. Business development ideas. Content options. Incentive programs. Charts of traffic and conversions. Forgive us, HubSpot, but we may have absolutely ripped off a couple of funnel illustrations.
Gosh, These Are Getting Tight
You know the expression “wet behind the ears?” It really doesn’t do the situation justice. This was my first gig A.K. (after kids). I was about to start a new career (I wrote about lipstick for InStyle magazine—10 years before), and let’s face it, I hadn’t presented since two pant sizes ago (so you feel me on the Spanx.)
We went in, and I spent more than an hour going through the deck and giving them my schpiel. I was earnest. I was going to make them WANT to drink the Kool-Aid.
I think I lost them around slide 5.
You’ve probably guessed by now that we didn’t get the business. We followed up for a good six months. But, we were fortunate to have made the biggest mistake we never made again: we didn’t qualify our lead.
Get 'Em Off Of Me
We should’ve known better— after all, we’re lead generators. But we were blinded by what looked like a golden opportunity. We forgot about BANT, which is an acronym created by IBM to evaluate if a lead is qualified:
- Budget: What is the prospect’s budget?
- Authority: Does the prospect have decision-making authority, or is she an influencer?
- Need: What is the prospect’s business need?
- Time Frame: In what time frame will the prospect be implementing a solution?
We had spent lots of hours with upper management—the influencers in the scenario above—so we felt good about their commitment to marketing being part of their growth strategy. We had the decision makers in the room, and they had an allocated budget. What we didn’t know, what we couldn't have known, is that one of the decision makers didn’t want to spend money on marketing anytime in the near future.
Pulling Them On Again
It was a good lesson to learn. After almost 15 hours of strategizing, planning, ideating, and talking to the potential client, we didn’t get the project. We simply didn’t have buy-in...not even 29 slides could have changed that.
When you’re growing your business, winning new clients is critical. What we lost sight of was the time and investment in relation to the BANT. Lesson learned: Dig deeper before deciding on an in-person meeting.
We were fortunate to have made the biggest mistake we never made again: We didn’t qualify our lead.
- What is the prospect’s budget….and what are items “below the line.” These are typically design costs that are often forgotten in the marketing proposal, so we call it out specifically. Crisp lines are drawn, everyone is in the loop, and no surprises pop up mid-production.
- Does the prospect have decision-making authority, or is she an influencer? Here’s where we went wrong with our telecom company. The influencers, our primary contacts, were the ones we gelled with. They recognized the need for marketing in order to grow the company. It turns out that might not have been the vision of the primary stakeholders, as they were recently acquired by a large competitor in an all cash deal.
- What is the prospect’s business need? At the time, we felt they needed a better digital marketing strategy to drive leads to their underutilized website. They had a very flat process for their partners, and we saw a major opportunity. Despite the fact that they were making revenue goals at a consistent pace, and while we presented a compelling perspective, we’re in the business of providing marketing, not selling it.
- In what time frame will the prospect be implementing a solution? I have to assume we had our timing right - we were one of several agencies selected to come in after many proposals. Everyone is busy, and every hour we carved out for them, they carved out for us. We learned a less satisfying lesson here, which is that it just wasn’t meant to be.
So if we meet, when we meet, you’ll know two things about us: We’re smart marketers and we’ve deemed you Spanx-worthy.