Saturday, December 15, 2012

5 Essentials of Prospect Qualification

What's the essential business process you have to own in order to grow your business?   A selling system.  A documented, explainable process that keeps your pipeline full of suspects, prospects, proposals and closed orders.   In my experience fewer than 25% of businesses have one. For the rest, each month's revenue is a surprise -- some ok, most below target.   

Here’s an overview of a selling system.   Last month, we explored Opportunity Development -- that discovery process where we determine whether a suspect (not yet a prospect) has a real need for what we do.

This month, we're talking about Qualification – sorting out the “best few” prospects from the many you might spend time chasing.

This eludes many cub sales people. Why? Because they’re humans. And most have a plethora of fears. Fear of rejection, fear embarrassment, fear of failure and other fears, the root cause of which is low self-esteem.

The fatal symptom of a salesperson’s low self-esteem is spending time with people who will see them, rather than people who are ready and able to place orders. The classic euphemism for this?  “We’re building a relationship”. When you hear a sales person talking that way, what they're really saying is, "I'm not asking for an order."  What’s the best way of actually building a relationship? Do some business together – just get an order, and show them what you can do!

What are the essentials of qualifying a prospect? Or, more importantly, disqualifying one?
  1. Accepting that not everyone is going to buy – For many reasons beyond your control, some prospects just aren’t going to buy from you – at least not now. As soon as you realize that, move on.
  2. Enough suspects – Implicit in disqualifying (discarding) prospects is that there are some left over. A broken selling system (not enough Lead Generation) causes poor prospects to be retained, simply because there isn’t anyone else to talk to.
  3. A clear-cut vision of your Ideal Customer – Exactly what does that person look like, sound like or act like? Think of a “customer muse” – a visual representation of the customer you’re looking for. Not a silly idea, actually.
  4. Assessment of "fit" -- The fit between your company and your way of doing business with the prospect's company and way of doing business. Are you a premium provider, and the prospect is all about price? Not likely to work out well.
  5. Recognizing that a prospect is a person, not a company -- People buy from people, and despite a prospect company’s apparent need you have to find the person who has the emotional need, authority and readiness to buy. Is he the "MAN"? Does he have:
    • Money -- Is there actually available budget to buy anything, any time soon?
    • Authority -- Can this person really buy from you, or is he really a “recommender”?
    • Need -- Does he actually have a pressing need - a want or a fear that needs a solution right away?
The answer you’re looking for? “NO”. Yes, “NO”. That’s the signal you’ve found a prospect to disqualify, so you can move on to the next one without wasting any more time. If you get a “Yes, but not now”, put that prospect into the “Farming” step of your selling system (more on that in a future article).

Does your selling system have a good disqualifying process? Do you regularly downgrade prospects and quit spending time with them? Do you get to “NO” often enough, or do you just wear out? Take a look in your CRM and see how many opportunities have been downgraded in probability. How many have been written off entirely? If that's not a sizeable number, you have either some false hopes in your opportunity list or you may have sales people spending time on deals that won't ever happen -- for you or anyone else.

Actually, I believe that's the worst kind of deal to lose -- the deal that doesn't happen at all. If they didn't buy from you or anyone else, it's a pretty fair bet that the deal should have been disqualified far earlier in the game and that time spent with a qualified prospect who will eventually buy from someone.

More next month on Proposals and Closing  

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International
Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

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