Prospect and Sales Continuum

What is the Prospect Continuum? It is my way of showing how leads move through a continuum to become clients or customers.

What is the Sales Continuum? It is my way of showing the key steps you must follow to make a sale.

Why are these continua important? These continua showcase the importance of following a process and defined steps, with intent and purpose, to arrive at a positive outcome. The two are inextricably linked as I will show later. What is critically important to understand is there can be no shortcuts; trying to skip a step in either continua will most likely result in failure more often than not. 

AIDA. For a very long time the AIDA model has been foundational for Marketing. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action and is still valid today. It has often been a simple way to define a generic sales funnel as shown below. What it does not do is define more specifically what must be done and to who in order to advance closer to a sale and that is where the Prospect and Sales Continua come into play.

Prospect Continuum. The four steps of the Prospect Continuum are Lead, Suspect, Prospect and Customer/Client. Let me define each

  • Lead – a lead is a name usually with some type of contact information but nothing more.
  • Suspect – a lead becomes a Suspect when the Lead has expressed some level of interest in what you offer.
  • Prospect – a Suspect becomes a Prospect when you have identified a specific opportunity to sell what you offer. I have always maintained that to be a real opportunity you must know at least 3 things including
    • The decision maker
    • The time when the buying decision will be made
    • There is budget in place to actually pay for what is being purchased
  • Customer or Client – a Prospect becomes a Customer or Client when they complete a purchase.

If you have an existing customer from a previous purchase you can often work with them as if they are Suspects to work to find new opportunities that return them to Prospect stage. If you make the mistake of simply trying to sell something to an existing customer without following the steps of the Sales Continuum you will fail more than you succeed.

The Sales Continuum. This is not a sales process; rather it highlights the key steps you must follow to create a Lead and take them through the Prospect Continuum to become a Customer or Client. These steps, when decomposed in detail, will ultimately define your sales process and all the activities that must be in place to complete that process. It sounds confusing but it really not. The four steps are Hook, Story, Offer and Close. As I explain each of these I want to pull it all together and show how the AIDA model, the Prospect Continuum and the Sales Continuum all work together. A disclaimer; depending on what you sell and at what price you may be able to almost collapse some of these steps together but the more complex and expensive your product and service the more defined and detailed each of these will be.

  • Hook. You use a Hook to get someone’s Attention and create a Lead. A hook can be everything from the Subject line of an email, the picture or headline for an online or print ad and more. The sole objective of the Hook is to get you to do something like open the email, click the ‘see more’ on an online post or something similar.
  • Story. The Story is what you use to get the Lead to demonstrate Interest and become a Suspect. Now you have their Attention, you use the Story to hold their attention to learn more.
  • Offer. The Offer is what you use to identify, find or define an Opportunity and turn the Suspect into a Prospect. Whether your offer is a sale price, something free or a multi-tiered complex offer it does not matter. In more complex sales situations the Opportunity has to be pulled out of the Suspect and then the Offer is tailored to a specific need or requirement. Regardless of how it unfolds, which is really catered to by your overall sales process, a Suspect does not become a Prospect until there is an associated Opportunity and Offer.
  • Close. You use the Close to get the Prospect to Take Action and become a Customer or Client. The idea of closing conjures up many bad vibes but if done right it is simply the last step in the Sales Continuum. Remember most people (and organizations) hate to be sold things but love to buy stuff. Your job is to follow the AIDA model and the Prospect Continuum and Sales Continuum to put that person (or organization) in a position to just buy stuff!

In my view of the world (which may be very different than yours) the first two steps of these Continua are typically the responsibility of Marketing and the last two of Sales. You may have one team responsible for all of this but very often they are two different roles reporting to two different people and so the message here is to make sure the ‘handoff’ is clearly defined. I have seen far too many situations where these dots do not connect well and that creates dysfunction and often finger pointing but more importantly substantially reduces the overall performance and efficiency of your new customer acquisition program and overall company revenue.

As with many of my blog posts and tips, these Continua do not stand alone. They are linked and fed by things like the Ideal Customer Profile, the Tactical Marketing Plan and the Sales Management System. Don’t get bogged down by semantics; put yourself up at 30000 feet and see this with a wide lens to understand more broadly how they all connect together.

If you would like to have a chat about how to either implement a more effective new client or customer acquisition process or substantially increase your revenue and profits in a year or less book a call with me to see if it makes sense to work together.