Have you ever gotten deep into a sales conversation with a potential buyer – maybe even over the course of weeks or months – only to find out that they will never become a buyer? That your firm is just not the right fit with what they really need… or that they can’t afford your services?
Scenarios like that – which happen all too often – are incredibly frustrating. And a colossal waste of time!
So, what can you do? You need to qualify your sales prospects before moving forward. Here’s how…
We all acknowledge that we want ALL sales prospects to become clients, but some won’t… and some can’t. The key is to weed out those kinds of companies as early in the process as possible. While there are all kinds of methods and schools of thought on this, it boils down to three primary ways to qualify prospects:
- Ask good questions
- Know their level of interest
- Set expectations
Ask good questions
There are a lot of acronym-based theories here, but the most common one covers the bases: B-A-N-T.
- B: Do they have the budget to be able to afford the project your talking about with them?
- A: Does the person you’re talking with have the authority to make the purchase decision? Anyone else involved? If so, who?
- N: Do they have a real need (an actual project)… or are they just talking with you to learn about what you do (not necessarily a bad thing) or perhaps gathering intel to negotiate better rates with their current supplier?
- T: If they have the budget, buying authority and need… what’s the timeframe on the project? How high is their sense of urgency?
During your exploratory calls with prospects, you need to weave in these kinds of questions to help qualify them. If their answers are what you want to hear… then keep going.
Know their level of interest
Some (in fact, most) prospects you’ll talk with are just a little interested in what you’re offering. There’s no urgency, no looming project… they’re just kickin’ the tires. And that’s fine. But what you want is to find prospects who are more than casually interested… you want prospects who have shown you that they are genuinely interested in what you do. And this is where marketing can help.
- Multiple touch points: Imagine you meet a potential buyer at a conference and chat with her about a particular methodology. Good first touch. A week later, she downloads an eBook you published from your website (on that same methodology). That’s #2. Then a few weeks after that, she registers for a webinar you’re putting on about the methodology. A third touch. That potential buyer’s interest – strong interest – over a period of time is a qualifying factor… so much so that you need to reach out to her. And unlike a cold call… you know exactly what to talk about.
- Drip campaigns: Similar to multi-touch, but all automatically set-up and triggered by the action of the potential buyer. For example, let’s say someone downloads one of your eBooks. That action automatically triggers an email to her a week later with a link to a blog you wrote. When she opens the email and clicks on the link to the blog, that automatically triggers yet another action a week later… and so on. Again, this is proving a strong interest in a particular subject over a period of time. Now pick up the phone and call her.
One of the biggest challenges we – as sellers – face is the dollars & cents issue. That is, can the company we’re talking with afford what we charge and are they willing to pay it? And in many cases, we get a gut sense – early on – that smaller companies may fall into the group that can’t pay. But we’re uncomfortable directly asking that question.
When that’s the case, you need to qualify these companies by letting them know, up front, what their investment will be. There are two matter-of-fact ways to handle this:
- While you are discussing the potential project, simply say something like, “Projects like this generally run from [insert dollar range].” And see how they respond.
- Sometimes the buyer will you ask about the cost. And rather than respond with “I’ll send you a proposal,” try this… “The average cost – for our clients who have engaged us for similar projects – is about [insert round number here].” And see how they respond.
In nearly every case, when the dollar amount you stated is higher than what they were anticipating (or can afford), the potential buyer will exit themselves from the process. No harm, no foul… and no uncomfortable disengagement.
Taking a few extra minutes to smartly qualify potential buyers is absolutely the right thing to do… it saves you – and them – a lot of time. Time that you can spend selling to those who CAN purchase your services.
Good luck and good selling.
Qualifying sales leads is a good skill to learn. Want to learn a lot more? If so, we can help. Starting in late July, we’re launching the Seller-Doer Workshop, an online training event developed specifically for MR professionals who have been tasked with selling, but don’t want to, don’t like to and don’t really know how to. For complete details, go to www.SellerDoerWorkshop.com.