Lemonade Stands and What Kids Know About Qualifying Leads


The digital age has made it simpler than ever to find sales leads. But that doesn’t mean selling has gotten any easier. Having access to millions of prospects is one thing. Actually turning those prospects into clients is another. Some people spam leads. Others target them to a machine-like level of precision. The sweet spot—as always—is somewhere in the middle.

Modern internet wisdom tells marketers to target leads down to the molecular level. After all, since the digital world gives us access to untold of information, there’s no excuse for mass emails anymore­. Don’t use generic emails and phone pitches. Research your lead like crazy until you know everything there is to know about them. Tailor your approach so that you’re offering them exactly what they need. Target! Target! Target!

Well, they’re right. Theoretically. If marketers had all the time in the world, they could do that. But they don’t. You can’t do 20 hours of homework for every potential lead. We want to spend the majority of our time delivering value to paying clients, not researching potential ones.

What you need to do is qualify your lead. And that’s where the kid at the lemonade stand may have an edge on many marketers.

If you were to apply the target-to-the max trend to a lemonade stand, this is how the initial interaction between the kid and a prospect would go: “Hi—would you like some lemonade? My lemonade is made from 100% fresh lemons, which is important to people in your neighbourhood. I made it by hand myself this morning, with tender loving care, which a person in your age category would certainly appreciate. I added just the right amount of coconut sugar—which is much healthier than regular processed sugar—so it’s not too sweet, which is important to people who have your body mass index. Then I kept it in this solar-powered cooler, which keeps the lemonade at just the right temperature, and minimizes my environmental footprint. Would you like some?”

Thing is, the kid was talking to a guy who just drank a bottle of water. He isn’t thirsty. He’s just humouring the kid to be nice. Meanwhile, two thirsty people are on the other side of the street. They’re so parched they’re making a beeline for the convenience store… and they didn’t even notice the lemonade stand.

Here’s a better way of targeting the prospect. This is what kids at lemonade stands do naturally. It’s called qualifying the lead.

“Hi mister. Would you like some homemade lemonade made wish fresh lemons?”

“No thanks—maybe next time!”

The kid notices the couple across the street. They seem thirsty.

“Excuse me!” he calls out, “would you like some lemonade?”

The couple cross the street.

“H! My lemonade is made from 100% fresh lemons, which is important to people in your neighbourhood. I made it by hand myself this morning, with tender loving care…”

Let’s hope the kid makes that sale.

Prospecting isn’t anything new, but we seem to have forgotten about it. Spam has made us paranoid about doing anything that isn’t targeted as much as technically possible. And the developments of marketing technology have made it easier than ever to target—so in a way, the options available to us are making it harder to focus on “effective” rather than “possible.” It’s analogous to analysis paralysis: since we can, we do. But maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we should choose—select.

There are a finite number of hours in the day for prospecting and we each have only so much energy in the tank. Don’t spend your time spamming, but don’t spend it all on a few potential leads either, unless you’re very confident about your success rate. Qualify a number of leads with a lightly targeted message. If they bite, go in with the detail. You might just sell more.

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