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Former Member
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How important is a relationship with the 20%?

Whether you give credit to Vilfredo Pareto, Italian Economist or Dr. Joseph Juran, Management Consultant and Engineer, their work from 1906 - 1940 led us to Pareto’s Principle, described as the ”vital few and trivial many”, or the 80/20 rule.

In today’s sales, we see most of our quota retirement coming from the “vital few”, while those prospects who move back into the lead nurture phase are the “trivial many”.

Inbound marketing has taken over most marketing efforts, with 53% of CMOs increasing their 2013 inbound-marketing budgets. This investment in inbound marketing and the allocation of budget to portfolios of marketing tools have provided the sales force with some minor wins, allowing us to easily manage the “vital few” and to just as easily forget about the “trivial many”. 

Is LinkedIn the solution for dealing with the “trivial many”?

As sales reps we think of the “trivial many” as nothing more than a copy-and-paste function, moving their contact information into the lead nurture phase and, with a single click, effectively ending our relationship with this non-interested party.  We rely on inbound marketing as our main revenue creation model, with our pipeline segmentation sitting at 60% inbound and 40% outbound, we have tricked ourselves into thinking that we do not need the “trivial many”. But are
we wrong?

If you subscribe to the notion that cold calling is dead, then the “vital few” are all that is left for you, and you will find yourself quickly running out of potential prospects. On the other hand, top performing sales professionals will invest 20% of their time in the 20% market segmentation that makes up the “vital few”, and will spend the other 80% of their time building relationships on LinkedIn with the “trivial many”.

The behavior of the “trivial many” is far different when they are connected with on social sites, such as LinkedIn or Twitter. They are extremely interested in building relationships with sales professionals as peers. Don’t believe me? Read my post on Norbert Kreibals finds on CEO buying preferences. The bottom line is, “people buy from people they like”.  I welcome you to challenge me on the aforementioned statement; the evidence to support my position will be the number of competitors your prospect has connected with on LinkedIn.  

At what other time during our career as sales professionals have we had such an easy avenue for staying connected to the “trivial many”?  I get it, in the past, marketing had a widget to deal with the “trivial many”, and today it just so happens that we as sales professionals may have access to a better widget: social networking.

This is not to say, of course, that we should begin to altogether ignore inbound marketing or its ability to help us close deals with the “vital few”. A simple reading of the 150+ Tweetable Stats about the Current State of Inbound Marketing, can help any sales person to realize how their marketing team has truly seeded the field and made it possible for the “vital few” to find their company.

For the “vital few” of the world, I use the 3-2-1 connect model, like you the seller, and attempt to be a great steward to him as he shops for a solution. I answer his emails, his phone calls, and even connect with Bob on LinkedIn.  Ultimately, I realize that the “vital few’s” vision of our company and solutions were shaped while they were part of the “trivial many”.  I sit in my cube and wish I had connected with members of this when they were in the lead nurture phase.  If we had connected on LinkedIn during the early part of the lead nurture phase, I would have been able to build a relationship and establish myself as a Subject Matter Expert. The key to closing deals, and securing revenue through the “trivial many” is to connect with them before they become the “vital few”, recognizing their potential to buy before they even know they’re shopping, and guiding them to their ultimate purchase decision.