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If you haven’t been in sales long (yes, you…the one who sells your product and services to the client—I’m talking to you!  You are in sales!!), you may think everyone is a lead.  If you have been around a while, you know this isn’t true, but you still may not be on the right track when it comes to who is your best lead.  “My best lead?  I thought a lead was a lead?” you may be saying.  Nope, wrong again.

I have to admit, nothing irritates me more than when I read an article about a business and they say “everyone is a potential client,” or, “my clientele is middle class females.”  Dang!  You missed the mark AGAIN.

Let’s try this again.  Who is your target market?  “OH!” you gasp, “Well I am after females age 20-35 who live in my city and are getting married.” Okay, a little better…

Now let’s look at it from another angle.  You are a photographer.  Two leads just popped in—oh happy day!  On the first inquiry form, Maria tells you she is getting married this September 16th (check—the date is open!!), at the Corazon Club in your town (Ohhh…that place is pricey!  And swanky! Check, check!!) and her budget is $5000 (Check, check, check!!!).  The second form is from Katie, who is getting married July 18th (Check-date is available!), at the local VFW lodge (Not trying to sound negative, but typically these places are dark, smelly and cheap…less than ideal venue, so no check here), and her budget is $1000, tops (no check here, either).  Which lead will you call first?  Which lead are you hoping hires you?

Now it’s making sense you say!  It’s not just enough to want a lead, or to have a target market.  You have to be able to categorize your leads so you know who to spend the most time with.

A, B, C Leads

A leads are your dream clients—to a “T” of who you would love to work with day in and day out.  They keep your cash flow positive.  They buy from you because you get their vision and they see you as an expert.  They tell everyone about you.  You’d marry them if they were getting married to someone else.

B leads are your less than perfect leads, but they keep the bills paid.  You may have to put in a few more hours with these clients as they keep your inbox full of questions, but they are overall nice to work with.  They may make you work for your money, but you don’t lose any of it, either.

C leads are the ones who eat up all your time, cost you money, are unappreciative of anything you do, cause you stress and heartache and maybe even damage your reputation.

So first thing is first—know who you want to work with based on your business model.  Everyone’s target market is different.  Perhaps you are the photographer catering to low-budget brides—that’s fine!  You have a niche, you work it and do well with it.  You would call Katie first and be afraid to call Maria.  Maybe you have a minimum.  Maybe you don’t travel outside a certain geographical area.  Perhaps you work with Indian couples having Hindu ceremonies only, or not at all. List all these out.

Next, you will break down the above parameters into three groups:

A LEADS Who is your ideal lead?

B LEADS Who is your step-down from ideal lead?

C LEADS Who is not your ideal lead at all?

You can get specific and include age groups, exact venues by name, budget ranges, special needs (many ethnic weddings require knowledge about their culture—if you don’t understand their traditions and ceremonies, either read up on it first or walk away altogether.  You can give yourself a bad reputation quickly if you don’t know what you are doing and it shows), sexual orientation (Gay and Lesbian weddings can be highly profitable, but if your morals are against their lifestyle, it may get in your way of serving them to your fullest), etc.

I’ll use my flower shop as an example.  An A bridal lead for us would be a bride who is in Columbus, Ohio, getting married within the next 6-12 months, who has a budget of $2500-5000 and is at venues such as Corazon, The Darby House, The Westin, The Ivory Room or Scioto Reserve.  A B lead is getting married in Columbus, Ohio or within 20 miles, in the next 6-12 months, who has a budget of $1000-2500 and is at venues such as Dock 580, Brookside, High Line Car House and Heritage.  A C lead is one who is getting married within our delivery area, has a budget under $1000 and is at such venues at Makoy Center, Tall Timbers or the church’s reception area.

Of course, most of your A, B, C leads will be driven by budget.  Money keeps you in business and pays the bills!  Budget is not always a good indicator of how well you two will get along, but I have found that those with healthy budgets tend to question my ability the least.  They hired me because they know I can do the job to their liking and they just let me do it.  The brides with the smallest of budgets have tended to cause the most issues, mainly because they have far less money and need to stretch it to every corner of the Earth and get the most out of it.  Their expectations are higher than they should be, generally speaking.  The ones in the middle tend to question things, but then tell me that I’m the expert, which really tells me they are unsure of what I am doing, but will trust me anyway.  This puts me in a tight position.  Oh and a little tip: and I have found that CYA (Cover your Assets) documentation is highly important no matter what level of bride you are working with, so document, document, document.

Now that you know the A, B, C leads model, start classifying your leads!  Don’t let the A’s slip away!  Cater to their every desire.  They will be reputation builders for you and bring you tons of leads!!  B’s are worth fighting for too as they keep you in business and typically pulls from the largest segment of the bridal population.  If you can, run from C’s.  Don’t be afraid to tell a client “no thank you” and position yourself exactly where you want to be!

How do you categorize your leads currently?  Please share in the comments below!