Having been in sales for fourteen years, we know how easy it is to get excited every time we have a new prospect knock on our door. The thrill of selling to someone and closing the deal is exhilarating. Unfortunately, many times we let our excitement get the best of us and we launch right into selling our solution. We spend weeks or months or even years on one prospect only to lose in the end because we didn’t properly pre-qualify the prospect early on. We didn’t ask the right questions in the beginning of the process to determine if the prospect is a good fit for us. This article walks you through the very important “discovery” or “scoping” questions you need to ask to ensure your prospect is viable and a good fit for your business.
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It’s 11pm at night and your email dings with a notification that someone filled out the Contact Us form on your website saying they are interested in your product or service. Yes!
But before getting too excited, you need to assess if this prospect is actually a good match – not just for them, but for your business as well. Latest studies suggest that only about 10% to 15% of leads turn into sales. A Lead Qualification Process is a great way to determine whether a prospect is worth pursuing. Even if the prospect matches your buyer persona, you should double check by going through the following lead pre-qualification checklist.
- Does your lead understand your product/service offering? And is it what they really need?
The first thing to make sure is that your prospect has a clear understanding of who you are and what your product is/does. And vice versa!! Make sure you understand their problem and their needs in order to properly align your solutions to their goals. If you don’t determine this right off the bat, the prospect may end up rejecting your proposal or, if they do sign on, they could give negative reviews because it’s not what they expected.
Pro Tip: Ask the following questions:
- How did you hear about us?
- Why are you interested in our offering?
- What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
- How are you currently handling the problem?
- Do they have the budget?
We know money is a delicate topic, especially for folks new to sales, but for the sake of you and your prospect, discussing their budget early on is imperative to making sure they are the right fit and can afford your offerings. The advantage of knowing their finances in advance, is that if they don’t have the funds, you can get creative early on about ways to make the product and budget work. In addition, once you find out more information about the prospect and their needs, you may see there’s a potential to grow the relationship over time, and therefore it may be worth evaluating the bigger picture. Lastly, if you know their budget in advance you can be prepared to negotiate, if need be, and/or offer different payment plans.
Pro Tips to Determine Your Prospect’s Budget:
- Flat out ask “do you have a budget for this?” WAIT FOR A RESPONSE. If they say yes, ask them to share it so you can make sure you’re on the same page and don’t waste time continuing the conversation if their budget is not aligned to your cost. If they say no, they don’t have a budget, then proceed to B below.
- If you don’t feel comfortable being so straightforward, give them a ballpark price range and see how they respond.
- Thirdly, you can ask them what product or service they are currently using. If they are currently paying for a competitor solution, then you’ll have an idea of what they are willing to spend.
- Who is the decision-marker?
If you are in B2B sales, with a high-dollar solution (e.g., thousands or tens of thousands of dollars), you will likely need to sell your solution to a team of users, influencers, and decision makers, all of whom are responsible for different areas. The goal here is to…
1. know who is involved in the process,
2. get each team member bought into your solution, and
3. know who has final sign-off so you can equip your contact(s) to advocate for your solution to the decision maker.
If you don’t figure this out early on, you risk spending a lot of time – months, sometimes even years – convincing someone to buy your product or service only to find out that they are not the decision-maker. Or, worse, that the final decision maker is not interested in your product.
Pro Tip: Ask up front…
- Who is involved in using this product?
- Who has final sign-off to purchase this solution?
- Does the team know you are evaluating new solutions? This question will help you determine how much time to spend on this prospect and how much work it will entail if you have to help your contact build the case internally.
- How urgently does the prospect need to implement a new solution?
When you begin a conversation, ask the prospect what their timeline is. When are they aiming to implement a solution? This helps you know how quickly you need to move to make the sale or how much time you have and where to prioritize this prospect versus others in your pipeline. If the prospect has a longer lead time, continue the conversation and use the extra time to build a personal relationship, if possible. If the need is urgent, make sure you ask for actual dates and deadlines to ensure you meet their requirements.
- Is the prospect’s timeline compatible with clients and projects in your pipeline?
Now that we have an idea of the prospect’s timeline, think about your current client workload along with your team’s ability to deliver on your prospects’ needs. Be honest with yourself and your prospect. While we, as sales professionals and business owners, never want to tell a prospect “we can’t take you on at this time”, it is better in the long run, and for the sake of the relationship, to be honest about your ability to deliver and being able to deliver a quality solution. The prospect will appreciate your honesty and see that you care about delivering a great project for each client. In return, they may be more flexible with their timeframe in order to work with you or they could come back to you in the future. All of which is a win-win!
In conclusion, asking these questions every time you get a new prospect is crucial to a successful sales cycle. Get clear early on. Don’t make assumptions and make sure you and your prospect are clear on expectations, deadlines, deliverables and fees as soon as possible.