How to Qualify Prospects & Leads
Qualifying is all about gaining the insights necessary to judge whether you should sell to a given prospect, and what is the best course of action to accomplish that is. Is this prospect a good fit for what it is you’re selling? Is this a viable sales opportunity? And if yes, what’s the best way to close the deal? Only after you qualify a lead can you really know whether investing your time and efforts into trying to sell to this prospect is worth it?
Many inexperienced salespeople jump to the pitch too quickly, without having first gained a proper understanding of their prospect.
What Happens When You Don’t Qualify Leads
You’re essentially throwing darts in the dark, operating like a mindless sales monkey. This will hurt your performance on several levels. You’ll waste your time and energy chasing the wrong leads.
If you’re not qualifying your leads properly, you’ll waste a lot of time following up, and attempting to sell to prospects that aren’t a good fit for your company. Spend this time on qualified prospects, and you’ll close substantially more valuable deals.
Sometimes the most difficult prospects can turn into the best customers. But how can you know whether this particular difficult prospect you’re dealing with right now is one of those golden opportunities worth investing extra-effort into… or just wasting time?
You do it by asking the right questions that help you to gauge how much this opportunity could be worth, and how probable it is that they’ll actually buy your solution.
Come up with questions that help you identify difficult, but valuable prospects.
Closing Bad Deals
Sometimes you might successfully sell to people who shouldn’t buy your product. This isn’t just bad for the customer who you persuaded into a bad buying decision – selling to the wrong customers is also bad for you and your company.
Not Knowing How to Sell to Them
What are their pain points? What’s the context in which they evaluate your solution? What kind of person are you dealing with? What type of organization? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you can’t customize your pitch for them.
How to Close the Deal
What’s their buying process? How long does it take this company to buy a product? What’s the deal value? Not knowing these things can lead to bad “surprises”. Most surprises you’ll encounter in sales aren’t actually surprises, they’re just a result of a sales rep not properly qualifying a prospect.
How to Qualify
It’s all about asking questions and eliciting the right information from the prospect.
There are four areas you want to focus on with your questions.
1. Customer profile
How well do they match your ideal customer profile? How big is the company? What industry are they in? Where are your ideal customers located? What’s the ideal use case? Which tools have they used in the past? What kind of ecosystem are they playing in
What are this customers’ needs? Is it about reaching certain goals in revenue? What are the needs of the individual, the team, and the company? B2B sales is fundamentally no different to B2C – you’re selling to people, not companies. You have to know how to fulfil their wants and needs. What are the results they want to get? And how will those results affect them, their team and their company?
3. Decision making process
How do they make decisions? How many people are involved? Which departments are involved? What’s their typical buying process like? How much time does it take them to buy a product? (Some organizations have 12 month purchasing processes – if you need to close deals in 3 months, that’s no good for you.) When do they plan to buy? Maybe they’re not ready to buy now, but will be in the future.
Who are you competing against? Which other vendors have they worked with? Are they evaluating your solution vs. building their own solution? What are the criteria they base their decision on?
If you know all these things you’ll have a really great idea if someone is a qualified prospect or not. Create a simple, one-page document that lists all the crucial questions you want to ask or the information you want to elicit. Learn more on B2B lead generation strategies here
5.How NOT to Qualify
While the most common problem is without a doubt that sales reps don’t qualify their prospect well enough, there are also some people who take qualifying too far, and/or do it badly.
You can’t just rapid-fire questions at your prospects. Qualifying is not interrogating, you need to be smooth about it. Weave the qualifying into the natural fabric of an engaging conversation, and approach the prospects with a sense of curiosity.
Identify Red Flags during Qualifying
During the qualifying stage there are several red flags you want to watch out for.
Sometimes the answers you get from prospects don’t paint a coherent picture. Some of the things they say don’t fit together with other things they say, and you can’t make sense of it all. Sometimes a prospect won’t be completely forthright with you, and you want to recognize if they’re giving you dishonest answers
Here’s a common example:
A prospect will tell you that it’s really important that your solution is scalable to many millions of customers. Later on you find out that their “team” is only two people (nothing wrong with that, been there, done that), they don’t have venture funding, they don’t have growth and they don’t have customers. There’s a bit of a disconnect when putting so much emphasis on scaling to millions of customers, and not having any at the moment. Maybe they are clueless and inexperienced, maybe there’s something they are trying to hide.
Whatever it is – watch out for conflicting responses. Ask yourself if the story they tell you makes sense.
If it doesn’t, then bring it up in a polite and honest way:
Just asking them to clarify will often be enough to bring up the real information.
Pay Attention to Context, Not Just Content
Don’t just listen to what prospects say, but also to how they say it. If they tell you they’re super excited about implementing your solution, but their voice is flat and muted… maybe they are not really that super excited.
When you notice this, give them opportunities to clarify things.
Simply say something like: “Hey, a lot of times implementing a new solution is really hard. What are some possible issues you might encounter?”
The point is to stimulate a real conversation, to get real information, and not just to comfortably cruise along the surface level.
The Reluctant Prospect
Sometimes prospects will exhibit an unwillingness to provide you substantial information. They’ll repeatedly respond to your questions with “I don’t know”. Their answers will be so general and unspecific that they contain no valuable information.
If you’re encountering a prospect like this, you’re either
a) talking to the wrong person and they’re clueless, or
b) they don’t trust you.
Call them out on it. Tell them: “We only deal with customers who become real long-term partners. To do that successfully we both need to be open. I really need to understand what you need in order to even judge if our solution is a good fit for you, or if I should point you into a different direction to make you successful.”
4 Signs of a Good Qualifying Process
There are certain things you can look at in your business that will be an indicator of how well you’re qualifying prospects:
· Productive sales reps
· Successful customers
· A short time to close
· Good forecasting (knowing what kind of deals are going to close and what they are going to be worth) will help you grow your business
What If Many of Your Prospects Don’t Qualify?
Sometimes you’ll find that the vast majority of people you talk to simply aren’t a good match for your product/service. If that’s the case, you’re probably casting your net too wide, and should consider a more focused and targeted approach to lead generation. There’s no point in spending most of your time with prospects who will never buy.