Having a consistent process for qualifying sales prospects can make or break you.
It is vitally important for a number of reasons.
- If every prospect is handled differently, it is impossible to institute best practices or measure the effects of improvements.
- Salespeople’s time is precious. It is best spent in front of qualified prospects. It can also be far less expensive to have other personnel or a lead call center do the initial screening, information gathering, and, if a prospect qualifies, appointment scheduling.
- You need to be able to track and compare your salespeople’s performance. You can only do that if you know how many “qualified” leads each one actually had.
The first step in creating a qualifying process is somewhat counter-intuitive. Think about all of the circumstances under which a prospect simply can’t buy from you. For example, consider the following sales qualifying questions:
- Are they located in a place where you cannot provide service?
- Do they need work done in a residential setting and you can only provide commercial service?
- Do they need industry specific products that you don’t carry?
I am amazed at how often companies fail to create this type of “knock-out” process up-front so they don’t waste tons of time with prospects they can’t help. Typically, salespeople don’t think this way. You will need to question your sales team carefully to identify what sales qualifying questions you need to ask prospects to identify these situations. Then, put those questions at the very beginning of your screening process.
The next step is to ask questions that help you prioritize your leads.
- How did they find out about you? If they were a referral, this is the hottest kind of lead. Referrals are far more likely to close than any other type of lead.
- Is your potential customer experiencing a serious or urgent problem? For example, if a production line is down, they will probably be prepared to move like lightning to get it fixed.
- If the problem is not urgent, what is the prospect’s time frame for making a change: a month, a quarter, or a year?
- What other options are they considering: Do nothing, handle it in-house, or inquire with your competitors (who)? If you discover that they have already called 15 other companies in your business, you know that price is very likely to be the deciding factor. If you are not the cheapest, this prospect may be a big waste of your time.
Time is one of your most valuable resources. Guard it fiercely. You only want to spend it on qualified prospects and you need to follow-up with your hottest leads first. You can only do this if you can identify them through a consistent lead qualifying process.
What are the questions you should begin asking every new sales prospect?
This blog was written by Laurie Leonard, the President of SUITE 1000, a U.S. based national telephone answering service, inbound call center and outsourced call center service. Her company has specialized in handling legal intake, sales leads, email lead response, appointment scheduling, customer service and help desk calls for over 20 years.