Have you ever spent valuable time with a prospect only to find out they are not qualified or unable to use your services? This can be one of the most frustrating experiences in a sales professional's day. Yet, this seems to happen over and over again regardless of the personal cost and outcome. Regrettably, in a down economy many of us use just one test for working with someone; the "can they fog a mirror test". Having a system in place to help you pre-qualify potential new clients is essential to the success of everyone working in the field of professional services. Faithfully using that system will produce a higher level of success each time it is implemented.
I train my team to use a set of pre-qualification questions during the initial interview with potential clients. These questions have two purposes. First, they demonstrate that they are serious about their profession and the clients they serve by showing they care enough to ask questions to learn about their client and their goals. Second, these questions help you decide if this potential relationship is a good match for you, your services and your business vision.
I encourage my team to consider the following key areas before deciding to enter into a professional relationship with a client:
Area of Interest - Are they asking for your services in a geographic area that is within your market knowledge and expertise?
Time Frame - Do they have a realistic time frame for making a selling or buying decision? Will they be making that decision in the next 30-60 days or longer? What are the milestones that must be reached in order to make the key decisions?
Ability To Perform - Are they in the "right place" mentally, financially, and situationally to make a decision?
Willingness to Perform - Do you get the sense that all decisions makers are ready and able to make a decision? Is there an actual desire or is it just an interest?
Decision Maker - Are you certain that you are working with all parties that will be involved in making the decision?
Market Comprehension - Are their wants/needs realistic with the price they will charge or pay? Are they aware of the current market conditions and willing to use that knowledge to make objective decisions?
Values Match - Are they “discount consumers” always looking for the cheapest deal, at the lowest cost, without an appreciation for a full-service firm?
Loyalty - Are they someone that you can build a relationship with? Are they willing to sign a service contract with you for a reasonable amount of time?
Experience - What is their past experience with sales professionals? What are their concerns, hesitations, expectations? What did they like about their past experience and what did they dislike?
There are many additional questions that you can ask in each of these key areas. The answers you receive will help you to decide whether this is the right client relationship for you to pursue. While many professionals might be tempted to boil these questions down to just a few relating to finances, job status, and decision time frame - when your goal is to build relationships for life; you need to dig deeper. If you are someone that wants to turn suspects into prospects and prospects into clients that will become referral partners, you must go the extra mile and learn as much as you can about your potential client.
Take the time to qualify your leads and you will save time, money, and valuable resources. This will allow you to focus your time on those you can best serve and those that will in turn help you to achieve your goals.
Question: Are you qualifying your prospects before you make them clients? If so, what is the process you use?
Make it a great day!