Qualifying Prospects, Part 4

As you tell from the videos in the previous posts, there are several ways you can qualify prospects. The key is to ask good questions so that you are not wasting time with a prospect who may not be very serious about working with you.

By now, you must realize that before you can help a client, you need to make sure you have a solid understanding of his needs and what he values. Never assume anything.

With regard to value, remember, it’s not what you value but what the client values that will tip the scales in your favor. For example, when you sell a car, you may think that good gas mileage is important, but the prospect may value more space for his large family. When you sell a house, you may think having a good corner location is important, but the prospect may value having a large backyard.

You see my point? In order to move the sales process from point A to point B, you need to find out that really matters to the prospect.

Below are some questions that I’ve asked over the years when qualifying prospects. I’m assuming that you have either received a phone call or email inquiry, and your goal is to find out more about the prospect and his needs and problems.

If possible, before contacting a prospect, try to do some quick research. Check out his LinkedIn profile. Is he a C-Level prospect or an intern? Check out the company’s website – does the company fit your client profile? Are there any clues from the website why the prospect is contacting you? Don’t spend a lot of time doing research – just a few minutes – but enough so that you know who you are speaking to.

ask good qualifying questionsHere are a sample of my qualifying questions –

1). How did you hear about us? This is a good ice breaker. Also, this question helps your marketing department find out where incoming prospects are finding out about your company (e.g., Google ads, trade shows, referrals). However, there is another reason why I ask this question first – it gives me a clue where the prospect is at in his buying process. For example, if a prospect says that he just “Googled your company,” he may be at the early stages of his buying process. But if he responds that he “called around and spoke to colleagues” in the industry, that could mean that he’s serious about making a decision. Sometimes prospects will tell me that they have already checked out my competitors, but were dissatisfied with what they are offering, and have decided to contact us. When that comes up, I always ask what was it about our competitors they didn’t like. This only gives me more ammunition to help me later in the sales process and helps close the deal.

2). What kind of problems are you having? What are your pain points? Obviously the goal is to find out why the prospect is contacting you, and how you can help him. Notice that I’m not talking about my products or services. On the contrary, when qualifying prospects, always make the focus on them – not you. They will be impressed that you actually care about them, and that you are not pitching the benefits of your product or service.

3). Why are you trying to solve this problem now? This will give you a clue of how urgent the prospect feels about his problem. There could be a number of reasons why the problem has surfaced –

a). They now have budget. They know they have a problem, but couldn’t do anything about it until now when the budget was recently approved.
b). A new director or manager was recently hired and wants to solve the problem.
c). A new employee was recently hired who used your product or service at a previous company, and he is recommending it to his new employer.

4). What timetable do you have? When do you hope to solve your problem? If the prospect states within the next few months, great! However, if there is no firm timetable or if the prospect is being very wishy-washy and hesitate about telling you, try to dig a little deeper until you get an answer. You don’t want to get burned here. If there is no urgency on part of the prospect, try to create some urgency and see what happens. However, if that doesn’t work, maybe you might be better off scheduling a call-back down the road when the prospect is more serious about moving forward. Your time is valuable. Don’t let the prospect string you along.

5). Do you have budget? Some sales people are shy about asking this question because they don’t want to raise the money issue early in the sales process. However, you need to know upfront if they have the financial resources to purchase your product or service. If not, then don’t waste your time.

The above are just a few questions that I ask. It really depends on your industry and the types of products and services you are selling. But the point is the same – ask good questions.

 

Qualifying Prospects, Part 3

In parts 1 and 2 of this post, I shared with you videos from YouTube from leading sales experts on how to qualify prospects.

Below are a few more videos on the same topic –

Alan Gordon, author of The Big Book of Sales, says that in order to be a professional sales person you must be able to ask good needs development questions. If you can’t qualify the prospect, you will not be able to successfully move forward with the sales process.

Here is his video below –

Claude Whitacare, sales trainer and speaker, argues that you may experience a lot of no answers before you finally discover what a prospect is seeking.

Here is his video below –

 

Qualifying Prospects, Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I discussed why it’s so important to ask good open-ended questions to qualify prospects. Below I want to share two more videos from sales experts on how they would qualify prospects.

Rich Grof, business and sales coach, offers three key questions to ask when qualifying prospects.

Here is his video –

Itzik Amiel, Founder of Power Networking Academy, argues that you need to do research and develop good questions in order to qualify prospects.

Here is his video below –

Qualifying Prospects, Part 1

When you think about it, being a good salesperson is like being a good journalist – you need to ask good questions.

How else are you going to help your client if you don’t know what types of problems he’s trying to solve. You can call this approach asking “qualified questions” or “needs development questions.” Some refer to it as the “discovery process.” But whatever you call it, the goal is still the same – uncover needs, wants or problems before moving forward with the sales process.

I think the biggest mistake that some sales people make is they do a product dump on a prospect before they have a real understanding of what the prospect actually wants. They go over all the benefits and features of a product, and then ask “Well, what do you think?” After a little hesitation, the prospect will normally reply “I actually don’t need anything that you discussed. Here is what I’m really looking for.”

If you just found that out in the beginning of the process, you would have saved yourself and your prospect a lot of time. Take a deep breath, be patient, and act like a reporter. Ask good open-ended questions, but also try to make it conversational in tone at the same time. You are not a tough investigative reporter trying to uncover a scandal. Think of yourself as being more of a fun entertainment reporter. You know, the kind that ask softball questions and have a nice, enjoyable engaging interview with a celebrity.

You are just one human being asking another human being how you can help him.

Below and in the next few posts, I’m going to share with you how sales experts ask good questions.

Ago Cluytens, sales expert and trainer, makes the case that you only really need to ask three questions in the first meeting with a prospect before moving forward with the sales process.

Here is his video below –

Jane Frankland, Online Marketing & Business Development Expert, says you need to ask five key questions when qualifying a prospect. You don’t have to get all your answers in the first call or meeting, but get a clear sense of whether it’s worth your time to pursue a prospect or not.

Here is her video –

Good questions to ask during Trade Shows

What is the best way to find good prospects during a trade show?

It all begins on the exhibit floor. When a prospect arrives at your booth, don’t treat him like a side of beef ready to be cooked.

Instead, treat him like a human being. Your goal is to engage in a conversation with the prospect, and determine his needs and interests. Remember, the prospect doesn’t care about your products, he only cares about his problems and how you can help him.

Some good opening questions are –

1). Why are you attending this trade show?

2). What do you hope to gain from attending this show?

3). Is there anything that catches your eye in our booth?

4). Can you tell me a little about what you do and some of the problems are you trying to solve at your company?

5). How is the show?

By asking some open-ended questions like the above, you can determine fairly quickly if you are dealing with a serious prospect, or just a sovereign hunter looking for swag. It also helps you create rapport.

Time is very critical at a show. You have to look at a trade show from the prospect’s point of view. There may be literary hundreds of booths for him to visit. He is spending most of his day walking from booth to booth listening to sales pitches and watching presentations. So you have to determine his needs and problems quickly, gain his interest, and most important of all, try to arrange a phone conference or meeting with him after the show. This is not the time to try to hard sell the prospect. It is extremely rare that a prospect will make a buying decision on the spot. This is especially true if you are selling services or products with a long sales cycle.

As a general rule, the longer you speak to a prospect at a show, the better chance you will have to continue the conversation after the event. And if the prospect is asking you a lot of questions and showing interest, that’s definitely a good sign.

From your point of view, you will only work at your exhibit booth for two or three days max. On top of that, you will be taking some breaks or going to lunch. So you need to use your time wisely and try to engage with as many serious prospects as you can.

Finding good prospects at a trade show isn’t difficult. You just need to be patient, ask good qualifying questions, quickly establish rapport, and arrange an appointment after the show.