How to Qualify a Sales Prospect

This is the blog transcript of our video “How to Qualify a Sales Prospect”. If you’d like to see more of our videos, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

We can’t sell to everybody.

There’s always going to be someone who we’re just not a good fit for. But, more importantly, there are plenty of clients who aren’t a good fit for US.

So how do you know the difference?

Hey everyone, I’m Ian Campbell, CEO of Mission Suite. Before we jump into today’s video, do me a favor and hit the subscribe button and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos.

For the entirety of my career, I’ve been in sales and, I hate to admit it but I spent – and wasted – a LOT of time trying to sell to people who simply weren’t qualified sales prospects. 

It was my thinking that if I could get enough time in front of someone, I could convince them that they needed to do business with me.

Well I wasted a TON of time, and a fair amount of money, trying to do this and when I finally figured out that if I changed my target, I could hit the bullseye with a significantly higher percentage!

It’s important to remember that even if our product or service is the best thing since sliced bread, some people just don’t like bread. So why try to sell to them.

I sell CRM software. I’m a firm believer that everyone should be using a great CRM to manage their business or they’re losing sales, wasting time, and probably making poor business decisions.

But if you’re 60 years old and have no interest in moving off of your Excel spreadsheet, why should I try to sell to you?

Sure there was a time when we focused on “educating” prospects and slowly coaching them to a point where they understood why they should see things our way.

But now that we have email marketing, webinars, and more information on the Internet than anyone will ever need, people can educate themselves.

You focus on finding someone who not only likes bread, but wants to buy yours.

Here’s how you should be qualifying your prospects.

First, know your ideal client profile

I’ve talked about this a LOT in the past. In fact, Dean Isaacs and I even did a full Community Table session about identifying your ideal client profile.

There’s a link to the recording of that conversation here in the corner of the screen, as well as in the description of the video.

Knowing who your perfect client is can make targeting your sales efforts significantly easier. Plus, it helps you identify who to say no to, which is the most important part of qualifying a sales prospect.

If you know that your perfect clients fit a specific profile – let’s say companies with a team of five sales people who are trying to expand their sales team – you’ll know the exact questions to ask to find out if the prospect you’re talking to is a good fit for you.

Two questions that come to mind right off the bat, for example:

  1. How many sales people do you have working for your company?
  2. Are you planning to grow your sales team in the next six months?

Regardless of the answer, you’ll know where these people stand as they relate to your ideal clients. 

Going a step further, let’s say that your perfect client is someone who is currently using one of your competitors that you know you have a good story to tell to compete against. As an example, I’ll use a large competitor of mine that just about everyone knows…we’ll call them GalesFort.

Now, I know that I can explore a bit further to ask the question – what kind of CRM are you using now? Are you on GalesFort? Are you happy with the way that your sales team is using it? Is it actually helping you set appointments and close deals?

All of that information, just because I know exactly what I’m probing for.

Now don’t get me wrong, if they’re not on GalesFort, or if they don’t have five sales people, I’ll still look at the potential of doing business with them, but I know they’re in one of the rings around my bullseye, and not squarely in the bullseye itself.

And that actually brings me to my next point.

Know your deal breakers

While targeting your ideal client technically IS about excluding people who don’t meet your qualification criteria, there are always exceptions. There are plenty of people out there who may not want to grow their sales teams, but want to get off of GalesFort. That could still be a great client for me, but they’re outside of the ring of my exact target.

That’s ok – as long as you know where your deal breakers are.

For example, Mission Suite charges on a database pricing model, meaning that the more contacts you have, the higher pricing tier you’re at. We don’t, however, charge per user so, more often than not, that makes us significantly less expensive than most of our other competitors.

But there was one time I spoke with a recruiting firm who had three users and a million contacts. 

That was an anomaly to be sure, but because that would send our price into the stratosphere in comparison to the per user model, it didn’t make sense for us to continue the conversation.

Are there times when the pain is so great that they’ll swallow the cost and try to do work with us anyway? Sure. But it’s so rare, and would take so much work to make happen that it’s not a good use of my limited time.

Deal breaker.

Knowing those deal breakers is a hugely important aspect to qualifying a sales prospect. Because if the odds are that it’s not going to work out to do business together, why waste your time and why waste the prospect’s time?

They’ll be significantly more appreciative that you pulled the ripcord earlier in the process than toward the end and, who knows, there might be some opportunity down the line.

One of my favorite statements to start a meeting once I’ve learned about a prospect’s needs is “let me tell you why this WON’T work for you”.

If they have things on their list that are deal breakers that I know we’re not going to be able to compete on, why bother? There’s no point in trying to square every circle and force a fit where there is none.

What’s your favorite qualifying question for a sales prospect? Let us know down in the comments and, while you’re there, give this video a like so that we know that you’re getting something out of it.

Ask open ended questions

I’m going to be diving deeper into open ended questions in my next video, but open ended questions are one of the most important parts of the sales process.

You need open ended questions to not only learn more about your prospects’ needs, but also to keep them talking. Yes or no questions just shut down a conversation, so use them sparingly. 

Asking open ended questions is how we find those key things that they’re looking for to make sure that we understand exactly how we should be crafting our pitch. 

Throughout the sales process, we need to make sure that everything that we’re doing is focused on dialing into the prospect’s needs. What we think they should want doesn’t have any bearing on selling.

We’re not here to push a product or service. We’re here to provide a solution to a need. The only way we can do that is by listening to that need.

And that brings me to the most challenging part for most sales people. 

Listen to the answers.

This truly is the hardest part of the sales qualification part of selling for just about every salesperson that I know. 

Our natural urge is to talk. 

Sometimes we’re talking about our solution. Sometimes we’re piping in when someone mentions something that we know that we’re particularly good at. Sometimes we talk just because we’re uncomfortable with silences!

What separates a good sales person from a great sales person?

It’s not the ability to talk. It’s the ability to listen.

Get yourself comfortable with silence. Let the prospect consider their answers to your questions, and consider their needs. If you push them, they may easily get flustered or frustrated and just decide to stop trying to talk to you.

And this is especially true if the prospect is describing their needs or what they’re looking for in a solution.

Don’t chime in with “oh yeah, we do that” or “that’s in our thing too!” 

Just keep your mouth shut and take notes. You’ll have your turn to speak soon enough, just make sure that your questions are all answered first.

Hey I hope you got something out of this video. And if you did, go ahead and give it a thumbs up and maybe a share so that others can see it too. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos and while you’re at it, check out these videos too!

We’ll see you next time around!

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