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Show them a hoop

Honeymoon 54
Creative Commons License photo credit: NathanF

One of the more daunting challenges for business owners is figuring out how to deal with a diverse group of leads.

What’s a lead?

Without over-complicating it, a lead is someone who in some way, shape or form has expressed an interest in buying something you do.

I know that isn’t very personal and such, but it’s a generic dictionary-style definition to get us all on the same page. Let’s move on.

Sifting flour?

Figuring out who is ready to buy isn’t as easy as putting them in Grandma’s flour sifter and turning the crank.

Your lead sifting process will probably be quite different, and potentially a time-consuming challenge.

So what are the goals of the process? I believe they should be to help you identify the folks who want your help without annoying/interrupting/bothering the ones who don’t want your help or aren’t quite ready for it.

Those who aren’t quite ready should already have the opportunity to consume information about your products, services etc via print, audio, video, blog, email or whatever. When they’re ready, they’ll give you a sign.


The sign is really what you’re looking for.

If you don’t find a way to identify the “ready-to-buy”, you not only attend to folks who really aren’t interested (yet?) or don’t (yet?) need what you’re selling, but that time can’t be used to help people who really do need and want your help. That speaks directly to the quality of what you can deliver, so it’s pretty important to make the identification of the ready as effective as possible.

Keep in mind that while these folks are leads (what could easily be considered an impersonal term), they’re individuals. They’ll still in their own place along their trail of discovery to making a decision, getting interested, or just plain discovering what you do.

So how do you figure out who is ready and who isn’t? While a few will come right out and tell you, most aren’t going to hold up a sign that says “Hey, you… yeah you, I’m ready.”


To figure out who is ready…give them something to do.

Like what?

A hoop to jump through. Something that gives them the opportunity to raise their hand and say “Me. I’m the one who thinks (or IS) interested in that thing you do/make.”

For those who don’t jump up right away, you may need a series of ever-increasing steps that take additional commitment.

  • Hoops tell you who is really interested.
  • Hoops can tell you *why* someone is really interested.
  • Hoops can tell you the depth of their interest.
  • Hoops allow them to make it clear, perhaps subconsciously, that they are ready NOW (or not quite).

Depending on how your customers take part in your business, the first hoop might be signing up for an email list, newsletter or webinar. The next one might be something more specific to one of your products or services.


If you have a retail store, restaurant or “brick and mortar” service business – these steps can be just as effective for you. Even a not-for-profit. Each of them give your prospective buyers, donors, customers or diners a way to self-identify.

You might hold a class or seminar – free, inexpensive, or not so inexpensive – whatever fits the step in the process they’re at. Think about ski demo days. They’re a lead gathering activity as well as a way to get skiers to “raise their hand”.

Hoops, or whatever you call them, need to be constructed with care. They can’t be a means of troubling someone or putting off those who really aren’t interested, even if that’s the result. You want to gain understanding of the customer while providing some help to them.

These kinds of obstacles, hoops or whatever you want to call them can be critical to helping you accelerate your identification of those who are ready to buy now, without running off those who aren’t.

What not to take away

This may seem mechanical, but it really isn’t unless you do it incorrectly. Not being mechanical about this is critical. DON’T use this like you would that sifter or gold pan. The result (finding the gold nuggets) may be similar, but the processes have nothing in common.