By Doug Camplejohn, CEO and Founder, Fliptop
In sales and marketing, we’re constantly in pursuit of the “perfect” lead. While the specific attributes of this profile will vary greatly from company to company, at the most basic level, the perfect lead is someone whose characteristics indicate a high propensity to buy. These “indicators” can be both demographic and behavioral but, before attempting to define what exactly your ideal prospect looks like, it’s worth considering whether the perfect lead actually exists… or if it’s simply a pipe(line) dream?
The Philosophy of Perfection
French Philosopher Rene Descartes would argue, “Since we possess the ability to judge imperfections, then there must be a reference point of perfection. Otherwise, the argument would not exist. By recognizing imperfection, perfection must exist in some form.” However, if perfection does exist, how can we improve on it? Without imperfection there can be no iteration, no steps to bring us closer to what we strive for, and no evolution.
If you come upon a company or prospect, how do you judge the probability of them buying your product? Consciously, you can identify that they fit a number of factors that you’re looking for but, as every company looks slightly different, how do you decide that they fit into any number of categories that, when everything matches up, identifies an ideal lead/company?
When problem solving, humans use conceptual category theory to build models of past experiences in our minds. Some of these models represent the ideal version of a concept, which helps us to evaluate real life examples and decide which category they belong to — ideal or not. These models include all the qualities necessary for something to fit in a given category and none of the qualities that are not relevant. The models are without flaws because flaws do not assist in defining a category. Conceptual models are a product of our brains. And because they are imaginary they are "perfect."
Finding Ideal Leads With Statistical Modeling
Plato argued that ideas were the ultimate truth or reality, and that physical objects were all imperfect manifestations of ideal objects. That is where the idea of a "Platonic ideal" comes from. In short, while we may be able to construct an imaginary perfect lead, all real life leads will be imperfect manifestations of that ideal.The problem with us constructing models of what we think a perfect leads looks like is that we are not able determine this accurately due to the overwhelming volume of categories that a lead might belong to. People are bad at integrating information from diverse, disparate sources and, therefore, the models we construct in our heads are always imperfect.
The only way to build an accurate model of the perfect lead is to use statistical modeling. When we collect data from multiple sources, and then apply statistical models, only then are we able to come up with the “Platonic Ideal Lead.” While we may be able to define the perfect lead, we must also recognize that this lead does not exist in the physical world. This perfect lead is a mathematical abstract of all the imperfect leads that a company has encountered throughout its life. Finally, a perfect lead will always evolve because it is not a product of a perfect being. As your company changes and evolves, so will the characteristics of your perfect lead.
Thankfully the technology exists to build statistical models that can help Sales and Marketing automatically identify, find, and target their own perfect leads. By looking at hundreds of characteristics of past customers, solutions like predictive lead scoring can identify which prospect attributes are indicative of a high propensity to buy. Armed with this knowledge, marketers can more effectively attract these leads with highly targeted awareness and demand gen activities. Sales can better engage with leads that meet a certain criteria, ensuring that they’re addressing a target’s unique pain points throughout the sales process. In doing so, data-driven organizations have been able add more value to the sales process and, in turn, create more new customers.
While technology today is helping Sales and Marketing teams strive to attract only the “perfect leads,” Plato may argue that they’re technically reaching for an impossible goal. Still, my bet is that it will be easy enough to ignore that old Greek’s perspective when perfect enough leads are converting to customers and helping you consistently surpass company growth and revenue goals.
Doug Camplejohn is the CEO and Founder of Fliptop, a provider of predictive analytics applications for B2B companies. Before Fliptop, Doug founded two companies, Mi5 Networks and Myplay, and also held senior roles at Apple, Epiphany and Vontu.