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Full cycle sales 201: using the lead bucketing technique to source and close more deals

Full cycle sales 201: using the lead bucketing technique to source and close more deals

If you have to open and close your own sales, you’re going to prefer one over the other, and that’s usually closing.

Why? Because the frequency of rejection is way lower, and the likelihood of success is way higher.

But let’s face it — no deals get closed without getting opened first. This guide will give you a path to maximizing the little prospecting time you have so you aren’t left with an empty pipeline every month.

First, you have to understand what “bucketing” means and why it’s so powerful.

Average sellers use the “scramble” technique to fill their funnels, meaning they scramble to find someone to talk to and then just end up frustrated, scrolling through LinkedIn waiting for an inbound lead to come in. 

Professional sellers use bucketing to ensure that every minute is spent with the most valuable lead possible.

In our book, Outbound Sales, No Fluff, Ryan Reisert and I break down the Bucketing Leads strategy.

Below is an excerpt from our book:

BUCKET 1 – UNCONTACTED

These are people you’ve never spoken with, including both cold outbound leads and new inbound leads who have yet to be researched or qualified.

BUCKET 2 – WORKING

These leads were researched in Bucket 1 and already have at least one outbound call attempt with a verified dial. A verified dial is when you can confirm that the number associated with that person actually reaches them. Leads in this bucket also include people who opened your email at least once, but if they open 5 or more times, move them into the next bucket. 

BUCKET 3 – PRIORITY

These are the prospects who meet any of the following criteria:

  • You spoke with them but couldn’t schedule a meeting.
  • They engaged heavily with your email outreach in Bucket 2, but never replied.
  • They’re an inbound lead and are in your swimlane.
  • They were once in your deal pipeline but failed to close over the last 6-9 months.

BUCKET 4 – SCHEDULED

This bucket consists of all upcoming appointments you have scheduled. These prospects are where the money comes from, so you have to watch this bucket like a hawk to ensure that they show up for the meeting.

In order to optimize your effectiveness, you work the bucket system in reverse. 

Focus more on Bucket 4 than Bucket 3, more on Bucket 3 than Bucket 2, and so on.

So let’s run a few scenarios to test how well you understand bucketing:

SCENARIO 1

You’ve got 15 minutes between a meeting that just ended and a closing call. Do you…

(A) Call a couple of prospects at key accounts you’re still trying to break into?
or
(B) Send a confirmation email for a meeting that’s due tomorrow?

B! You always prioritize the prospect who is closest to the finishing line.

Feel like you aced that one? Too obvious? Try this one on for size:

SCENARIO 2

You’ve got four hours once a month for prospecting built into your calendar. Looking at your buckets, you don’t see any meetings due that haven’t been confirmed, you’ve already reached out to the priority prospects in Bucket 3, and your Bucket 2 is looking pretty wimpy. Do you…

(A) Send out an email blast to a list of 1,000 leads you pulled from ZoomInfo;
or
(B) Make as many cold calls as you can to that same list.

If this were Sales 101, you’d be right to answer either A or B based on the best channel for reaching your prospects.

But in Sales 201, this is actually a trick question! Inconsistent prospecting leads to desperation and poor decision making. If you only block out four hours once a month for prospecting, you’ll spend most of that time thinking about prospecting or doing volume work like calling a big list for the first time.

The better move here is to spread out your prospecting so that you’re committing to buckets every single day (or pretty close).

Why should you do this? Isn’t it marketing’s job to fill your pipeline with leads?

I’ve never been a fan of letting someone else control my success. Great sellers know what levers they can pull, and they don’t worry about or blame others for the levers they have no control over. It’s no one else’s job to properly prioritize our prospecting efforts. It’s no one else’s job to make sure we use every spare block of time to bring in more deals.

And as for why you should abandon the “scramble” method in favor of the bucketing method, here’s the quick math:

Conversations

  • The average dial to connect rate on a cold list is ~3%, so it will take 100 attempts to have 3 conversations.
  • That connect rate improves 3-4X when calling a number that picked up previously (because people who pick up once tend to pick up again). 
  • So if you spend your 30 -minute prospecting block cold calling a net new list (Buckets 1 & 2), you’ll have 1-2 conversations. But if you call Bucket 3 leads, you’re likely to have 3-8 conversations. 

Conversions

  • The likelihood of converting a lead to a meeting from just your first conversation is anywhere from 1-4%. But upon follow up that number jumps to 5-20% (based on hundreds of thousands of conversations tracked by my friends at ConnectAndSell).
  • So if you have 1-2 new conversations in a half-hour block, best case scenario you are setting a new meeting every 12 blocks (or every 6 prospecting hours). But if you are working your priority bucket, best case scenario you’ll set a meeting every half hour prospecting block. 

If you do not have Bucket 4 leads, you have to work Bucket 3 leads to get more. The same goes for Bucket 3 — gotta work those Buckets 1 & 2 to fill it up.

Here’s a cheat sheet to make this incredibly easy:

1. Do I have any deals closing today/this week that require attention?

  • These should appear as tasks on a list or calendared times to work on whatever is required to earn the sale. (E.g. Follow up with the legal team on the final contract redlines).

2. Do I have any deals that need more attention to get unstuck?

  • Come up with more creative follow up than the lame “just checking in” email. And don’t just use email – a poorly planned email never got a stuck deal to go anywhere, and even a well-written email is easily ignored.

3. Do I have any meetings today that are unconfirmed?

  • Call them to confirm. Here’s an example of a script you can use:

Hey ___, I was calling to confirm our meeting today at [time] – does that still work for you?

[What’s it for?]
We were hoping to…

Agenda point 1
Agenda point 2
Agenda point 3

4. Do I have any meetings in the next 2 business days?

  • Email them to confirm. Here’s an example of a script you can use:

Hey {{{Recipient.FirstName}}},

Looking forward to our scheduled call for {{{Meeting_Due_Date}}} at {{{Meeting_Due_Time_and_Time_Zone}}}.

Here’s the agenda – please add anything you’d like to cover.

Agenda:

{{{Agenda point 1}}}
{{{Agenda point 2}}}
{{{Agenda point 3}}}

Or, just reply “Confirmed”, and we are all set.

Thanks,

5. Do I have any prospects in Bucket 3 with a task due (or overdue) or with a Next Attempt Date of today (or earlier)?

  • Following up on these should be blocked into the daily schedule, but if it’s not, add a time block now. 

Check this webinar out for the details of how to make this work.

6. Do I have any prospects in Bucket 2?

  • Block out time where you have at least 30 minutes to “get into the groove.” The more time you can spend calling on these leads in a single block, the more likely you are to earn a conversation. The more conversations you can have without interrupting your flow, the better you’ll sound. 

7. Do I have any prospects in Bucket 1?

  • If yes, call them and document the path, then move them to Bucket 2.
  • If no, work the campaign you have ready for filling Bucket 1.
    1. Don’t have a campaign? Build one! Remember these fundamentals:
      • Target
        Whose problem can you solve?
      • Message
        What can you offer to help them? Why should they care?
      • Channel
        What’s the best way to reach these people?
      • Timing
        Why is now a good time? If you don’t have triggers or specific reasons, make sure you’re using your Priority Bucket (#3) to follow up at the right time.

If you’re not working your pipeline, you need to be filling your pipeline. Now you have a framework (and a cheat sheet) for crushing your number instead of hoping that marketing sends you more leads or that the phone starts ringing.

Happy selling!

Rex Biberston

Rex Biberston Co-Founder, Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Rex co-founded The Sales Developers, the team called upon by B2B organizations actively investing in growth when they need modern outbound sales expertise delivered with no fluff and total commitment to excellence. They provide perfect leads lists, outbound prospecting services, and expert consulting to consistently fill their clients’ sales buckets.

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