Sales Tip: How To Quickly Pre-Qualify a Lead

Last Updated Jul 16, 2010 10:07 AM EDT

This post was originally a comment posted in response to "Create a Powerful Sales Process in 6 Easy Steps". It comes from Neil Licht, a sales trainer with 25 years of sales experience and is so full of sales wisdom that I'm doing a light edit and bumping it up to a full post.
Two principles guide the selling process, whether in letters, emails, or in person. If you remember theses two axioms, your sales reach outs will come out as grabbers and connectors and the prospects interested buyers plus each step of the process will go your way including budgeting and gaining the order. They are:
  • Axiom #1: People do things for their reasons, not yours.
  • Axiom #2: Imagine the prospect has a sign on his forehead that says "so what?"
Knowing those two laws of selling, each sales pro can learn what is important to their prospects and then adapt their messages into so that they are relevant to the prospects' issues, concerns, and (especially) their buying motives.

You must obey these axioms from the first time you open your mouth and then build from there. For example, if a customer calls you and say "I'm interested..." you can't just assume that's a sales opportunity.

The "prospect" may truly just be interested in knowing what's out there; or whether he could have gotten a better deal than the one he just signed with somebody else! Remember: people do things for their own reasons, not yours.

Similarly, if a customer says that he needs something and provides a description of what's needed, you may be tempted to immediately design a solution and then think you're going to make the sales. But unless you remember the two axioms, you can do all that work and end up hearing: "Great idea! But It's too expensive!"

Can you really afford to waste time selling when the outcome is going to be: "Sorry, we don't have enough budget"?

That's why up front and immediate qualification cost vs. budget (See "Create a Powerful Sales Process in 6 Easy Steps") is a must for any sales process. It's the reality check that can get you a sale or let you scale down the expectations of your prospect so they can get a solution at their budgetary level.

You want to do this qualification as soon as possible -- even in the first call! You need to know:
  • Up front qualification for budget availability
  • How to get cash obligated and availability
  • The evaluation and buying process
  • How things get bought
  • Who needs to be involved to get to yes.
Believe it or not, it's possible to get learn most or all of this in one minute on the very first sales approach call. The results of finding this out tell you if:
  • You have a real prospect.
  • They have money available to buy from you.
  • If you should continue with the selling process because there is a reasonable chance for a sale if you do.
Here is an eight step process for putting the axioms to work to create an effective sales approach:
  • STEP #1. Research and understand the target company, especially how and why your product or solution might be able to help.
  • STEP #2. Create a short 30 second commercial based on your findings that can quickly and succinctly say what you do, create a reason for listening, relate pertinent issues, benefits and problems solved and let you ask if it's something that the prospect needs or would adopt.
  • STEP #3: Find and define who would be right to hear that commercial at the highest level of responsibility and authority, relate to it and give you a true assessment of need and value, right on the spot.
  • STEP #4. Make the phone call to that person and use the 30 second commercial. After the commercial, ask for and qualify the possibility of need or value for what you have explained from the person you are speaking with. Ask it this way: "Is this an idea that can benefit you and your company?"
  • STEP #5. If the answer to the final question is "No" or a weak "Maybe", jump to STEP #6. If the answer is "Yes!" or a strong "Maybe", start your pre-qualifying process. Ask how it might help, why it might help, the reason it would help. Investigate the problem it would solved and how it would impact the prospect's revenue. If pursued properly, this creates the basis for selling value based upon ROI rather than cost. Skip to STEP #7.
  • STEP #6. You should only be here if STEP #5 didn't apply. Stop selling and say "thanks for your time and your honesty. I can see that our solution isn't applicable to you." Then ask: "Do you know of a colleague that could use my solution." Who knows? You might get a new prospect or even an introduction. Then move to the next prospect (back to STEP #1).
  • STEP #7: You should only be here if you went through STEP #5. Ask: "If we do have a worthwhile solution for you, who along with you would need to be involved in evaluating, adopting and purchasing your concept?" This lets you know who to approach beyond your initial contact but does not insult your initial contact. Since your idea or solution has already been acknowledged as worthwhile by the prospect. using this question also lets you ask them for help in moving forward. NOTE: Don't ask "Who is the decision maker?" That's insulting because it says to your contact that you think he's a peon. Even if he is a peon, he's still a gate keeper and can help move you forward or kill a sale.
  • STEP #8. Get the budget qualification. After the 30 second commercial gets receptivity or the caller has finished telling you what they want to buy, in either the proactive or reactive situation, state a rough cost right then to your suspect for the solution and ask if there is a budget for implementing the concept if it's a worthwhile idea. Please note that violates every sales rule that you have learned, but it's still the right thing to do.
Don't even think of continuing the sales process without knowing the answer to the budget issue and budget process. The answer you get reveals the time and process needed to get the sale, as well as your prospect's perception of how much they think your solution should cost. Finally, it lets you measure if it's worth your time versus the ultimate value of the sales.

Remember, people do things for their reasons, not yours. So rather than deciding that you know a prospect needs your service and trying to ram it through, follow the steps above, use the 30 second commercial up front and you will avoid chasing rainbows that do not become sales.
NOTE: Neil Licht posted his email address in his comment. I think he's crazy, because that's a recipe for SPAM, but here it is, slightly protected: callherewqeare @ verizon dot net
  • Geoffrey James