Qualifying Time

Today's competitive sales environment calls for a new approach, sharpened skills and, often, an attitude adjustment. Doing your homework, asking the right questions and qualifying every step of the way through the sales process will ensure you never again waste your time on prospects that will never buy.

The Hit-Or-Miss

Failing to spend the time in preparation for a potential sale means more misses than hits. Do these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You spend hours preparing a detailed design proposal for a meeting with a prospective client, only to be told, "It looks good . . . we'll get back to you."
  • You invite clients to lunch and by dessert are told that what you were offering was not what they needed at all.
  • You fail to ask the prospect if he has the financing to afford your design, and when you finally bring up the topic, you both are embarrassed when he says, "Sorry."
  • An amiable customer chats your ear off before you discover that he isn't the one who will be making the decision. You failed to ascertain ahead of time who the decision maker was!

New, Improved Selling

Successful selling is focused on attitude, behavior and skills. Keep these points in mind before your next big appointment:

Qualify early and often. Selling is a continuous chain of events - each event moving the process forward. Sales is also a process of mutual understanding through management of expectations and commitment by both parties. Setting the expectations of the relationship up front eliminates confusion and wasted time.

This involves continually moving the process forward, and on your part, repeating the process and managing expectations through communication at the start of each new step - at the beginning of every phone conversation, in e-mails, letters and at the introduction of new players.

It's about them, not us. Today's selling requires engaging the prospect with something of interest. It also means knowing them, the industry, and competition. Build a strategy to plan your selling approach, and become an expert on your prospect. Put yourself in the prospect's shoes. No more hit or miss!

Learn to ask the right questions. The only way to uncover the truth with people is to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Sales is not about honing your ESP. Keep asking questions until you gain clarity about the real issue.

Asking good questions is the key to discovering the prospects' money tolerance - what they're willing to spend to eliminate or reduce a problem or challenge. At what point would you like to find out a prospect has only budgeted $25,000 for a pool when your entry-level design starts at $30,000? The time to address the budget is before you make a presentation or do any kind of proposal or bid.

Sample questions:

In round numbers, what are you setting aside for this project?

What will happen if our proposal comes in higher than that?

Suppose we're all in the same ballpark from a price standpoint. How will your decision be made?

What happens if we come in over budget but you really like our solution?

Work on your attitude. Position yourself as a partner as opposed to a vendor. Allow your prospective clients to feel in control and a part of the discovery process as opposed to feeling manipulated. Remember: collaboration versus manipulation. How would it feel to walk away from a non-qualifying prospect if you knew that with the right prospect your selling skills were invincible? That's an attitude that cannot fail you.

To summarize, qualifying depends on three very basic premises:

Will they buy? (Is there a definite, quantifiable need or desire?)

Will they buy now? (Is there a sense of urgency?)

Will they buy from you? (How are you positioned against the competition in terms of providing value?)

Use these strategies to hone your skills in asking questions, qualifying buyers and having the right attitude. They will help you become more efficient and effective in your sales by saving you the time and effort of dealing with the wrong prospects.

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