Grade your prospects, prioritize your time

Understand which leads will turn into sales and which are a waste of time

We could all use more time. Particularly in a sales role—which tends to be more autonomous than other roles in an organization—time can slip away if you’re not attuned to prospects that are more or less likely to lead to a sale. 

Below is a system that helps you grade your prospects to better prioritize your time. By grading, I’m referring to grouping similar prospects into categories to identify trends. This will help you better understand which leads are more likely to turn into sales so you can spend more time on work that will contribute to the bottom line. 

In a spreadsheet, create seven tabs (A+, A, B, C, D, E, F) and then assign your current customers and prospects to their respective categories. 

A+  These are current customers who are actively giving you their business. You like working with them and you want to maintain your relationship and grow the account.

The plan: Maintain consistent contact with these individuals through a combination of email, phone, and in-person meetings to ensure you’re one step ahead of your competition in meeting and exceeding their needs. 

A  These are prospects who have the money and desire to do business with you and they want to buy sometime in the next three months. These prospects are likely dissatisfied with their current provider or they’re looking for different value that hopefully you can offer (better service, different print offerings, faster turnaround time, etc.). 

The plan: Follow-up immediately. Arrange a face-to-face meeting as soon as you sense dissatisfaction with their current provider. Do your homework and figure out how you can win their business by addressing a currently unsatisfied need. Time is of the essence and this category represents promising prospects who are most likely turn into customers. These are the low hanging fruit. Run, don’t walk! 

B  These are prospects who have money and desire to do business with you but they are in no rush to make a decision. This includes prospects who are happy with their current provider, but are interested in information about your offerings to ensure they’re receiving the best value for their dollar. 

The Plan: Follow-up consistently over next 12 months by phone and email.

C  These are prospects who would like to buy but are unsure about budget or you’re aware that they are actively considering other providers as their first choice. 

The Plan: Follow-up occasionally over next 12 months by phone and email.

D  These are prospects who do not seem to have the money or motivation to buy at this time. These prospects are looking for free information and can therefore be the biggest time-sucks around. Beware of friendly voices who are all too eager to bounce ideas off of you, but the conversation rarely leads to action. Often times these conversations also represent relatively small projects that don’t add considerable value to the bottom line. If you have the time to spend with these individuals, great. But most of us don’t, so watch out if there are creative conversations but no buying signals. 

The Plan: Follow-up annually to see if their financial situation or motivation to move forward with the project has changed.

E  These are essentially non-prospects until current management changes. It could be that they’ve had a bad experience with your company or that management is loyal to other vendors leaving you out of the running. 

The Plan: Follow-up annually to see if interest levels or management has changed.

F  These are people who you don’t want to do business with. We’ve all had those customers or prospects that were not worth the time, stress, and cost involved to manage them. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. 

The Plan: None.

Now that you have a plan, get out there and sell a good night’s sleep! 


Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.