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.

Do you see my point? In order to move the sales process from point A to point B, you need to find out what 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 samples of my qualifying questions –

1). How did you hear about us? This is a good icebreaker. 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 about 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 salespeople 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.


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