As the resident sales guy at a marketing agency, a lot of my job is evaluating potential clients. Yes, they all believe they are the ones evaluating us, but it’s much more important to us that I properly evaluate them. Now that our agency has grown in size, it’s incredibly important we bring on the right new clients. We’ve tried working with enough of the wrong types of clients to now know that it simply isn’t worth it. Whether the contact simply has the wrong mindset or whether they are just too restricted in budget for us to be effective, the end result will be the same.
Over the year, we’ve learned that it’s vital we find the right companies to partner with. But it can be challenging to accurately determine if a company is the right fit, especially early on in the sales process. Luckily, I’ve learned to utilize an acronym to help me collect all the right information along the way so I can qualify each opportunity. That acronym is GPCTBACI, and it stands for Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, Consequences, and Implications.
Great Campaigns Have Clear Goals
The first question I ask every opportunity that comes our way, whether for a full scale marketing campaign or a simple web project, is why. Why do you want help with marketing? What is the goal of these activities? Why do you want a new website? What do you want it to do? Until you know the true purpose, you have no ability to prescribe a solution, so that’s why I always begin with goals.
A Good Plan Only Goes So Far
P can also stand for Past marketing efforts. The idea is you need to understand what they are doing already and what they have planned to help them reach their goals. Remember, your job is to help them uncover how they can be doing things better. To do that, you have to understand what they are doing already.
Challenges Mustn’t Be Ignored
Nothing will piss your team off more than not uncovering the situations that will limit their effectiveness. That is why after I ask leads about their goals and plans to reach them, I always make a point to ask them this basic question too. Have you encountered or do you expect any challenges in marketing your services or products? Essentially I am asking, “Why part aren’t you telling me?” What are the roadblocks? If you have never done these things before, fine, we can help you no problem. But if you have, what kept you from succeeding?
Timeline is Critical
The T in our acronym stands for timeline. As in, when do you want to hit your goals? When do you want to begin work? When do you want to make a decision on an agency partner? Timelines come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes people need to get moving next week. Sometimes the sales process will take a year. It’s important for them and for you to have a clear understanding of their timing needs and expectations right off the bat.
B is the Big One: Budget
The budget conversation might be the trickiest question of the bunch, but it is absolutely the most important. As a new sales guy, I certainly struggled with this question and I believe that I ended up losing some deals because of it. I was hesitant to have that conversation so early in the sales process. I also didn’t understand the best way to go about it. I’d mistakenly ask them what their budget is, and I’d inevitably get some response like “We don’t have an established budget yet, so I’m just trying to see what things cost.” The truth is there is no way around having the conversation, so you might as well have it right off the bat. If a lead is unqualified because they simply don’t have enough budget, it’s much better to learn that early than it is after you’ve already sank a bunch of hours of work into that opportunity. So you are better off clearly laying out whatever your minimum or average engagement is from the beginning. Set the expectations where they should be, and you are always able to customize a budget from there.
Another Important Question: Authority
I can’t tell you the amount of conversations I’ve wasted on people that weren’t the decision makers. From exploratory calls to proposal reviews, if you haven’t been speaking to the person that is making the decision, it’s almost impossible to leave a strong enough impression to win the sale. So do yourself a favor and press early to understand the process of their decision making.
Consequences Can’t Be Avoided
This is where the purpose behind the questions shifts. Most of the previous steps are fill-in-the-blank type questions. You ask the question, and they have answer. But with this and the final step, it’s about mindset. It’s about getting them thinking about this the right way, and it’s about positioning you against the competition. That’s why you should always be sure to end round out these conversations with the question of what happens if they don’t succeed. What happens if you don’t act? What happens if you don’t invest in marketing? What does that means for your annual goals? What does that mean for your business?
They’ll Say Yes, Because of the Implication…
The last point to hit in these conversations is what if? What if we succeed? What if we help you reach your goals? What does that mean for your job? What does that mean for you personally? Take the time to force your leads reflect on these questions, and I guarantee you’ll have a better understanding of their degree of qualification.
Now that we are done with that, let me say that I’m fully aware that discussion of these types of sales acronyms can make you want to pull your hair out with boredom, but that this one does. The conversation is never going to sound remotely normal if you are simply going down the checklist one by one. You have to be human and actually listen to someone if you want them to believe you can help them.
Use the acronym as a reminder while you are taking notes. I begin every new sales call with GPCTBACI written down, and I fill information as I get it. This ensures that when the call is over, you can see what topics you haven’t covered yet. Then you can mention them in the follow up email or make a note to cover at the beginning of your next call. Boom. Problem solved. Next question.