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The Difference Between Interest and Intent

How do you know the difference between a good lead and a bad lead? It really comes down to a simple analysis of interest and intent.

Interest is where someone has shown themselves to have some curiosity about your product or service. They might have downloaded a white paper, visited your website, or stopped by your booth at a trade show. They have taken some action that tells you that they have at least some interest in what you have to offer.

But interest alone is not enough. Interest without intent at best clogs your pipeline with worthless stuff, and at worst is a complete waste of time and resources.

Here's an example:

I am interested in Italian sports cars. I have gone so far as to walk into dealerships or visit their stands at auto shows. Does this interest mean I have any intent to buy one? Absolutely not. Any person at a dealership that spent a moment with me would be wasting their time.

Why? I may be interested, but I don't have an extra quarter million dollars lying around, and even if I did I most likely would not want to spend it in that way. I have neither the ability nor willingness to act upon my interest.

Intent is interest plus the ability and willingness to take action.

So when you go about the process of lead qualification, you must determine if that demonstrated interest is coupled with intent. Too often we try to find out if we think the person is a "fit" for our product without considering if they are willing and able to buy it. So in addition to determining fit, it's also useful to assess intent through your initial discovery questions and conversations, to find out things like:

  • How is this person involved in the buying process? Do they have the ability to say yes? Who else will be involved?

  • Does the company have a budget for a solution like yours? Is the person you're talking to in a position to allocate budget for a solution if they wanted to?

  • Have they bought anything of a similar kind before? Is there an incumbent solution?

  • Is the company trying to solve an existing problem? Do they acknowledge the problem?

  • What is the status quo situation? How painful is it to them? Is there a chance they will do nothing?

We will often find through this process that a lead is a bad fit because of a a poor fit of interest and intent:

  • They are interested but are not willing to take action (no intent)

  • They are willing and able to take action but not that interested in your product (perhaps they own a competitor's product)

  • They are interested and willing to take action, but don't have the ability to say yes-- you're talking to the wrong person-- this can be an especially big time suck if you're not careful. If the person isn't researching you on the basis of an agreed need at their company, you run the risk of thinking you've sold the product only to have it killed because someone elsewhere in the company didn't have the same priorities.

Review some deals that went nowhere in the past and ask yourself, did these prospects actually demonstrate intent? What could you have done differently to uncover intent during the initial conversation?



*As of April 2022, Pardot has been renamed Marketing Cloud Account Engagement, as part of Salesforce's effort to organize all the marketing products under the same platform umbrella. "MCAE" is simply the same Pardot we know and love under a new name. The product is temporarily being referred to as "Marketing Cloud Account Engagement powered by Pardot."   

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