Define “Qualified” as in “Qualified Prospects”

What does this mean? How should a company decide what makes a prospect qualified?

If clients and money are coming in, this is a secondary problem, right? Why does it matter? For an organization that is looking to scale their business, having a well-thought-out and preferably data-proven definition of ‘qualified’ is Paramount. ScaleUpOnDemand’s client, Indigo Energy, desperately needed this definition.

After three months of implementing new standardized methods, messaging and ongoing training, Indigo developed and secured over 80 qualified, NEW accounts. This was over TWICE as many new clients that the company had seen for the entire previous fiscal year WITH the same number of sales reps. Let that sink in. The majority of ScaleUp’s success was based on simply understanding the PARAMOUNT value of truly defining what “Qualified” is to your organization.

Founded in 2008, Indigo came on the scene as a small player in a massive industry, delivery of wholesale petroleum products and renewable fuels. Price drove all fuel-buying decisions, and Indigo thrived for several years being a leaner and faster alternative to oil and gas giants. In time, Indigo saw an increase in similar wholesale delivery competitors that replicated their quick-delivery, multi-option model. To stay ahead of their new competition, they needed to operationalize their view on customer acquisition and that began with understanding who their ideal customer was. But they hadn’t done this before and weren’t sure how to begin.

ScaleUp, with a Revenue Operations Analyst and Bus Dev Manager, recognized that Indigo couldn’t consistently answer the question, “who is your ideal client?”. The result was obviously varied and sporadic prospecting efforts and poor top of the funnel metrics. What makes the “best” the “best”? Was it how much fuel they buy at a time, how often, where they were located or was it their potential to increase volume or types of fuels they purchased in the near future? After every person contributed to defining this important definition, we had clarity AND agreement (from finance to operations to marketing and sales) on who the team should be contacting to generate new business.

The existing, antiquated sales techniques, approaches, and follow-up processes wouldn’t allow the company to best leverage this newly-gained knowledge. All the things you would expect were implemented (salesforce automation tool, messaging strategy with email and voicemail templates, standardized objection-handling, campaign calendar with targeted sub-industries, time management guidelines, etc.). The key was looking back at the definition of a qualified prospect during every step of this process (e.g. when building messaging or role-playing with the team).

With all of the material and messaging in place, having lengthy conversations were expected to be the norm and everyone needed to elevate their level of comfort and confidence on the phone. The sales team had become accustomed to speaking with existing customers to the point that they had no idea how to describe their product or differentiator to a new prospect. To build confidence, we had to practice. So, we did just that by sitting in a room altogether, with one phone, and individually cold-called prospects to hear what worked, what didn’t and to again quickly build individual confidence.

“They [ScaleUp] updated our sales approach in a significant way. I admit, I was hesitant to some of the ideas, but the team walked me through the positive impacts that we would see and it turned me into a believer.”

-John Mansfield, CEO of Indigo Energy

ScaleUp’s success relies on our clients’ success and those who are open to and understand growth strategies, just as Indigo did. Let us help maximize your upcoming business growth plans, reduce your spend and minimize risks with our team of on-hand, experienced operators and business development professionals today.

3 Steps to a Smooth Implementation

Evaluating and implementing software is an organizational change that can positively (or negatively) impact the masses. But failing to adhere to a complete process will result in wasted time, discord and tension, and decreased production. And, you’ll have to do it all over again when you are bigger, when it will surely hurt a lot more.

Stage 1: Investigating and Project Planning

Before beginning to evaluate software solutions a few questions need to be answered namely around defining the pain, must-have requirements, budget, stakeholders, and framing the whole process. Some of the questions you’ll want to think about are:

  • Who will be affected by this change?

  • What is the current process the team is using? Where are the breakdowns/bottlenecks?

  • Who needs to be involved in the evaluation? Will they commit to giving their time and supporting the rollout of the selected solution?

  • Who will own the roll out (implementation, training, ongoing support)?

YES. There is a lot to think about, and the above is an abbreviated list. Only after you have answered all the planning questions can you properly begin to evaluate the software and ensure the proper selection and smooth rollout.


Stage 2: Evaluating Vendors

Now the not so fun part--evaluating lots of options and giving the stiff arm to the undesirables… There will be many companies out there claiming they can solve your specific pain points. In order to whittle down to a shortlist of contenders, consider integration capabilities, end user experience, vendor and buyer responsibilities during and after implementation, and some of the following:

  • How will you find your list of potential vendors?

  • On what criteria is the evaluation based?

  • Does the selected vendor have necessary workflows and processes to capture our must-haves? Do we need to re-evaluate what our must-haves are?
  • What is their product roadmap? Will they grow with you or will you need to replace them?


    Step 3: Preparing for Implementation

    So, you've whittled the list down and selected your ideal solution, one that meets your requirements AND has the best ROI. Before you launch into implementation, consider the following questions to ensure a smooth rollout:

    • Who is motivated to get this project done? Is it top-down or bottom-up?

    • Are key stakeholders in each affected department identified, bought into the plan, understand their roles, AND can commit the time?

    • Who owns the project plan? What are the key milestones? Has the vendor confirmed its feasibility?

    • What does success look like for us in 3, 6 and 12 months? How will ROI and effectiveness be calculated?

    • How will the end users be trained and supported?

    If you've got clear answers to these questions, move forward feeling confident about your decision. You are ready to now execute on the plan, which is no small feat and probably the hardest of all.

    6 Steps to Building a Growth Strategy

    Startups fail (on average) for a number of reasons both in and out of their control. While building a growth strategy should incorporate both, let's focus on a series of revenue generating, tactical steps you can take to manage that which you can control.

    1. Understand what problem or pain you solve

    That will become your value proposition. Whatever you solve must align with one of the following or you'll be climbing uphill:

    • Saves money
    • Generates revenue
    • Increases customer satisfaction - which reduces churn and generates revenue
    • Reduces risk
    • Saves time

    2. Determine product-market fit

    Get good at defining your Ideal Customer and Buyer (after accomplishing step 1), and you're (I promise) ahead of the pack. You know the adage, there is power in focus. So, focus and power your customer acquisition and retention strategies.

    3. Build your revenue model / plan

    I'll be honest, this step is a doozy and best done with both sales and marketing or run the risk of silo walls being erected. Build your demand generation strategy by evaluating the CAC, ROI, sales cycle length and effort required to pursue each of the offline and online channels where your buyers visit. Align your sales operations strategy (compensation plan, activity targets, territories, sales process) to everything you've defined above. Phew. That's a lot.

    4. Determine key indicators across revenue operations and build the infrastructure

    Generate the processes the support the plan, and the reports and rhythm of communication to review and adjust the execution of the strategy based on the data you receive.  This is where you'll be able to understand which lever has the biggest moment arm (aka leverage). We got technical and engineering chops here. So, yeah, moment arm.

    5. Execute the marketing and sales strategies

    Time to put your head down and execute with precision. Block and tackle each email send, event you attend, webinar, failed process, rollout of a new tool, daily sales standup meeting, weekly pipeline/forecast review, Quarterly Business Review, etc. Limit distractions. Create a protocol for how deviations from strategy should be decided on. And be mindful that when you miss a month or a quarter, people will make emotionally driven decisions to their detriment.

    6. Take care of the "Second Sale"

    This is everything beyond your initial sale. This is implementation, product issues, accounting issues, product roadmap. Use data and regression analysis to identify connections you make between product usage and retention rates. If the latter isn't necessary now, don't worry about it. But set up a data lake so you can start storing your data for analysis later.

    7 requirements to hiring successful sales reps

    1. Define a hiring plan

    Leaders! Pin your sales goal to a hiring plan AND please please please treat it like a sales funnel. Define leading metrics of success (i.e. applicant count), include the forecast in your management meetings, etc. Common in the early stages, there will need to be 1) a group effort w/r/t sourcing candidates but 2) some'one' needs to be ultimately responsible for sourcing candidates AND communicating to the executive team if there is a risk to meeting the hiring plan (a proxy for the revenue target...a proxy for the valuation target).

    2. Get compensation right

    Don't paint yourself into a corner where you are figuratively stuck and literally can't make a comp plan change because of the repercussions (e.g. mutiny). The answer is to 1) be clear on OTE, 2) use an accelerated comp schedule, and 3) pay BDRs/SDRs on completed discovery meetings.

    Bonus points: Provide a series of leading indicators (e.g. leads added to your CRM, activity, meetings set) to new hires so they understand what needs to be accomplished during their "ramp" period. Pay the reps on a predictable schedule. You don't need them worrying about whether you are going to pay them or not.

    3. Track the channels you use to source candidates

    Applicant quality and/or quantity will be a problem. The answer--diversify your channels and track/report results in your leadership meeting. Determine a date when you need to press the "emergency" button. In other words, identify a recruitment firm, like CatchTalent, which can help you fill your needs when you are in a tight spot.

    4. Spice up the job description

    "Requirements: 4-yr Bachelors Degree, can make cold calls, not afraid of rejection"...

    What's the point? You're wasting an opportunity to explain your vision and what you truly want. Take a look at ScaleUp's--they are unique, short and get to the point. They didn't take that much longer to create, but they are us. If you look like everyone else, the good candidates will gloss right over.

    5. Use established interview criteria and interview process

    Early stage companies allow interviewers to be bad at interviewing. You walk out of an interview lacking concrete reasons as to why you recommend or do not recommend this person for hire. The result is most certainly a crap shoot as to whether this person will be a producer.

    Bonus points: Spend 2 hours as a team defining 5 criteria you look for (e.g. coachability), read the book "Hire with your Head" to become a better interviewer, and develop your own, consistent interview process (example below). Think about using Slack as your interview medium (FullStory does this well).

    1. 5 min - Warm-up; do a quick overview and understand the candidates's motivation for looking.
    2. 20 min - Conduct a comprehensive work history review.
    3. 10 min - Ask about major individual accomplishments. Work history review should only briefly touch on the accomplishment.
    4. 10 min - Ask about major team accomplishments.
    5. 10 min - Ask a job-specific problem solving question. Assign specific performance objectives to those most impacted.
    6. 10 min - Ask them about their boss
    7. 5 min - Ask close question and then if they have any remaining questions.

    6. Prepare your new rep for success with an onboarding program

    "Welcome to Company ABC. We don't have a formal onboarding program. You can sit with Jessie; she'll teach you what you need to know." You know how this plays out--Jessie's production goes down because of the cannibalization of her time AND the new person is frustrated with the onboarding experience and questions how long it will take for them to make money. The result is a "See ya later. I'm outta here." for both.

    The onboarding program should touch on the following in a building block style where you learn certain things before advancing:

    • Who is the employer? what do they do?
    • What value do they provide? what problem do they solve?
    • How do they solve it?
    • Who are their customers?
    • etc...

    7. Increase success with ongoing certifications

    New products are commercialized. New sales tools are implemented. Processes are changed. Competitive intel is learned. Messaging strategies adjust. The list goes on. There are any number of items that need to be communicated to the team to help them be more successful. But don't overwhelm them. Implement a mechanism to monitor adoption (e.g. Speakpoint, if it's messaging).

    Bonus points: Create and publish an annual calendar which includes product and skills trainings.

    The Most Insightful Sales Metric EVERRRRRR

    Know this, set up your systems to calculate it, let the data come in, and then use it. Your reps will improve, your cost of acquisition will go down, and you will be loved. Have your sales ops analyst set it up now. You'll thank yourself.

    Opportunity Velocity tells you how effective your effort is by returning the average dollars brought in per day and is defined as:

    [(Total # of opportunities) * (Win rate) * (Average ARR of closed won opps)] / (Sum of pipeline age).

    Let's look at an example that would yield an increase in revenue by focusing energy towards opportunities with a higher velocity.

    In the image below you see a scatterplot (velocity vs. total revenue) where four dots have been plotted.

      Velocity Metric.png


      1. If these dots were sales reps, Blue and Red closed the same amount of revenue, but Blue is twice as efficient with her time. And, Red gets it done with brute force and a lot of man-hours. The goal here is to improve Red's efficiency by isolating what Blue does best. Another goal is to incentivize Blue to put in more effort. Oh, and Green needs desperate coaching (they are working hard, but hardly efficient).
      2. If these dots were market segments, Green is a terribly inefficient and a resource-gobbling market segment. Abandon it and reallocate your resources to other market segments. Blue is the front-runner for being the golden goose and centering a team and acquisition strategy around that market-segment.

      There are no less than 10 other examples that would drive important change in an organization (e.g. adjust marketing spend based on a more complete understanding of your best lead sources, aligning territories with highest yield).