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How to qualify a prospect in 5 easy steps

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Qualifying your prospect simply means that you're exploring how likely that prospect is to becoming a buying customer before you put the time and effort in to guiding their decision to buy from you.Qualifying your prospect isn't a complicated process, in fact, it's as simple as a five step process which I've outlined here.

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How to qualify a prospect in 5 easy steps

  1. 1. Ph: 619-550-2193 ▪ ▪ to Qualify a Prospect in 5 Easy StepsBy Tristan LooIn my previous article, I described the differencebetween suspects and prospects. Lets say thatyour marketing campaign went well and severalof your suspects have identified themselves asprospects. A precarious step in the sellingprocess, and one thats a common mistake forsales professionals, business owners and theirstaff, is treating all the incoming prospects as ifthey were all the same. The truth is that justbecause a prospect responded to a mailer orgave up their contact information in exchange fora freebie, doesnt necessarily mean that they want, need or can afford your product orservice.Thats where qualifying your prospect comes into play. Qualifying your prospect simplymeans that youre exploring how likely that prospect is to becoming a buying customerbefore you put the time and effort in to guiding their decision to buy from you.Qualifying your prospect isnt a complicated process, in fact, its as simple as a five-step process which Ive outlined below. By walking each prospect through the five-step qualification process, you can boost your sales and your efficiency and makemore money for your business.Step #1: Do They Have a Budget?It doesnt matter how much a person actually wants or needs your product or service ifthey dont have the money to pay for it, right? Im sure that theres a ton of people whowould love to own an exotic Italian sports car, but the majority of people simply cantafford the $350,000 price tag for one. So a sales professional who wants to sell thatexotic Italian sports car needs to reserve their time to only the select number ofpeople who can actually afford to purchase one, rather than spinning their wheelstalking to people who love the car, but will never be able to afford one. © Copyright 2012 Feel free to use and distribute this article so long as the attribution remains intact. 1
  2. 2. Ph: 619-550-2193 ▪ ▪ why qualifying the prospects budget is the first step in the five-step qualificationprocess for a new prospect because if they simply cant afford what youre offering,then theres no point in moving forward with the sales process. You can get a goodfeel of whether or not they can afford your product or service by simply asking themwhat their budget is. You can also explain the price range of your product or serviceand ask them if thats within their budget. Theres many different ways to qualify yourprospects budget, so find an approach thats comfortable for you and use it everytimeyoure qualifying a new prospect.Step #2: Do They Have Authority?When I was in college, I worked as a front desk paper-pusher. Despite the sign on thefront door of the office that read "No soliciting," several B-to-B sales reps would walkin daily hawking their wares. Quite a number of these sales reps spent a great deal oftime making a sales presentation to me in an attempt to convince me to buy. The onlyproblem was that at the time I was about as low on the corporate totem pole as aperson could be, so making a sales pitch to me was as useful to them as trying to sella house to a baby.Making your sales pitch to someone who isnt in the position or doesnt have theauthority to write you a check is pointless. And in sales, time management isessential, so focusing your communication only on those key individuals that have theauthority to write you a check is the key.But often its not as simple as that. Sometimes, the front-end "gatekeepers" (customerservice, secretaries, call-takers, etc.) have been given explicit instructions from uppermanagement to do what they must to get rid of any solicitors. In other circumstances,a middle manager may take your sales meeting because he or she is the head of theirdepartment, but they may not have any real power to cut you that check. You cansave yourself a ton of wasted time by simply asking the question, "Who is responsiblefor making a purchase decision?" And then deal only with that person.When asking this question, be careful of answers involving multiple decision-makerssuch as, "Well, I run the department, but I have to run it by my partner, boss,accounting, etc.") In my experience, that generally means the person is either amiddle manager who doesnt want to admit that they dont have the power to make a © Copyright 2012 Feel free to use and distribute this article so long as the attribution remains intact. 2
  3. 3. Ph: 619-550-2193 ▪ ▪ decision, or theyre simply fielding your solicitation for their boss. You dontwant to deal with middle managers. You want to deal directly with the decision-makerthemselves.I personally dont like dealing with committees because they rarely ever agree witheach other and they take far too long to come to a decision so I choose to focus in onopportunities that dont involve a handful of people. But in some cases, you mighthave to face a committee because thats how their buying process works. Its oftenlike this in the corporate environment where a buying decision can mean a sale of upto several million dollars. In those cases, I would try to arrange meetings where all thekey decision makers are present so everyone gets the same presentation andeveryone gets their own questions answered. Follow up is important in committeebuying situations because they usually have so much going on that its fairly easy foryour deal to get pushed on the back burner. Youll want to gently coax your deal backon the front burner until a decision has been made.Step #3: Do they Have a Need?Every introductory sales course will tell you that its pointless sell ice to an Eskimo, butthats exactly what I see novice sales professionals and business owners do on adaily basis. Theres another name for that - SPAM! And even though it might not beemail SPAM, soliciting someone who has no immediate need, desire or interest forwhat youre offering is just a waste of their time and yours.Lets explore the psychology behind when a prospect says, "Im interested." Behindevery desire to buy, theres a need to solve a problem and people buy your productsor services to solve that problem. When I buy a hammer, its not because I want ahammer; its because I have nails that I need to drive into wood 2 x 4s to ultimatelyrepair my garage. In this particular example, there are two expressed needs: 1) anintermediate need to drive nails into wood and 2) an ultimate need to repair hisgarage. Where it gets tricky is that usually that underlying need is hidden and youllhave to probe a bit using carefully directly questions to uncover their needs. Onceyouve identified their needs, youll be able to position your product or service in a waythat best illustrates its ability to solve their problems and fill their needs.Often youll find that a prospect has a need that they themselves might not be aware © Copyright 2012 Feel free to use and distribute this article so long as the attribution remains intact. 3
  4. 4. Ph: 619-550-2193 ▪ ▪ This is where education plays a part in the buying process to qualify a prospect. Aseasoned sales professional will have the ability to educate their prospect and identifygenuine needs that they have that they werent aware of before. For example, allbusiness owners have a need to save money, but they might not be aware of all theoptions to do that. If you educate that business owner on, lets say, your green recycleservices that not only saves the environment, but also puts some money back in thepocket of the business owner, well then youve just created a need where there wasnone before. In my copywriting business, many business owners dont know that theyneed the services of a copywriter, but when I explain to them that Im able to craftmarketing pieces that can generally outperform their control and bring in more leadsand sales; they get interested because all businesses have a need to bring in moreleads and make more sales.Step #4: Do They Have a Time Frame?Youll want to identify how soon your prospect wants to purchase your product orservice. The sooner their time frame is, the quicker and easier the sale will be.However, if their time frame is long or unsure, then you might be spinning your wheelsfor months without any results, simply because you failed to qualify their time frame.By asking them what the time frame for their buying decision is; you can tailor yoursales process and your efforts accordingly.In the case where your prospect doesnt have any particular time frame in making abuying decision, I would recommend creating an artificial deadline for them andincentivize taking action on that deadline with some sort of value-added perk. Forexample, if I were selling an "at-home" informational diet program, I could throw in a30-day meal plan, a book or a series of success case studies (or all three of themtogether) if they make a purchase by the end of the week. Often creating a deadlinefor your prospects is enough to polarize them into making a decision to buy from you.Step #5: Do They Have Compatibility?The final step in the qualification process is simply whether or not you feel that yourprospect would make a good customer for your business. Are they compatible withyour philosophy, business practices, communication style and/or ethics? Some salesprofessionals leave this one out which is fine, but I recommend that you keep step #5 © Copyright 2012 Feel free to use and distribute this article so long as the attribution remains intact. 4
  5. 5. Ph: 619-550-2193 ▪ ▪ youre selling professional services, high ticket products or continuity products. Mostof us have at one point in our careers dealt with "problem child" customers and theyare a big drain on resources. This drain on resources might outweigh the value ofhaving them as a customer in the first place, so step #5 helps you weed out thoseprospects who you feel are not compatible to your business practices.By this point in the selling process you would have had several meetings with yourprospect and you should know them fairly well. So ask yourself, "Is this a person that Iwould enjoy doing business with in the future?" Let your gut instinct tell you "yes" or"no" on this one.ConclusionWhen you engage a new prospect, always keep this five-step process in your mindand youll end up making more money, saving more time and having happier clients.About the Author Tristan Loo is a Copywriter and Marketing Strategist based out of San Diego, California. His passion is helping businesses of all shapes and sizes generate more sales through better written communication. Visit his website at www.ProfitFuzion.comSubscribe to my Write Profits Newsletter! The Write Profits Newsletter is my 100% FREE newsletter that I publish every month and contains easy-to-digest marketing, copywriting and sales tips and strategies that will help you build your business. Subscribe to Write Profits by clicking on this link. © Copyright 2012 Feel free to use and distribute this article so long as the attribution remains intact. 5