When Prospecting, How Much Initial Qualification Is Enough?

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When prospecting, how much initial qualification is enough before taking the next step in your selling process? Discover how qualifying like a pro saves you time while allowing you to focus on the more promising prospects.

8-Steps to Creating a Coaching Culture by Keith Rosen
I received the following question from a salesperson the other day who was struggling when it came to qualifying his prospects during a cold call. He was looking for an effective way to best qualify his prospects and how to avoid wasting time when meeting with the wrong ones. What follows is his initial inquiry and my response, which I felt important enough to share with you, as many salespeople seem to be struggling with this very issue today.

That is, “When cold calling, exactly how much initial qualification is enough before determining the next step in my selling process? Do I do all of my qualification up front on the phone before scheduling a face to face meeting or do I wait until I meet with the prospect and then conduct a more robust needs analysis? How do I make this determination?”

Here is the email I received:

“Hello Mr. Rosen,
I am a salesperson selling health insurance who is currently working on my sales system. My target market is owners of small businesses. I call them and set appointments from telemarketing leads. I have a script in which I use to set the appointment and qualify them, before meeting them face-to-face. I’d be curious to know what strategy you feel is best regarding my two approaches below.

First Approach: Do minimal questioning and qualification and just set the appointment. Then at the appointment, conduct a fact finder to find out their situation and what they like or don’t about their current health insurance plan. Then, set another appointment and come back with a proposal and recommendations. I will pre-close them on the first visit.

Or is this a better this way?

Second Approach: Call and qualify them and ask them all the questions over the phone to find out their current situation on this initial phone call. Then, I will bring the proposal to the first face to face appointment, recap what we discussed over the phone, explain the plan and try and make the sale. Pretty much try and make the sale on the first face to face visit.”

Here was my response:

The answer is – BOTH. There’s always a minimal amount of non negotiable qualification that must be done before meeting with a prospect. Then, when determining how much deeper you can go in your qualification, depending upon the situation it could go either way, so let the customer decide.

The IDEAL scenario is the second one you mapped out. And it’s all in the spirit of saving you your precious and limited time following up and meeting with people who you shouldn’t be meeting with in the first place. The cost of meeting with unqualified people is compounded exponentially because you’re not only meeting with the wrong prospects but you’re now losing time that you could have invested meeting with the right ones – the ones that your competition is meeting with.

Of course, there are those situations where the prospect simply doesn’t have the time nor desire to answer all of your questions during an initial phone call and at that point, it’s going to be a judgment call on your part. So, to minimize the risk of meeting with the wrong prospects and maximize your time when meeting with the qualified ones, what I would recommend is making a list of the non-negotiable qualifying questions that must always be asked, regardless of the situation, so that you get a baseline understanding whether or not this person is even a candidate for your product or service.

Here’s a great way to handle how much qualifying you can do over the phone and how to do it in a way that would encourage the prospect to spend more time with you during this initial telephone conversation.

Simply put, let the prospect decide. After all, people want to save as much time as possible and would appreciate any opportunity to be more efficient when it comes to leveraging their time. That said, the next time you speak with a prospect over the phone, use the following approach during your initial needs analysis/qualification process.

After asking them a couple of preliminary, non negotiable questions, deliver the following message.

“Mr./Mrs. Prospect, I know you’re busy and I want to respect your time. That said, I want to share two options with you that would save you some time when deciding what solution is best for you and whether or not there’s even a fit here. We could schedule a time where I can visit with you to learn more about your business and your objectives and then at that time, schedule another meeting where we could discuss my proposed solution, or, to speed up this process and avoid scheduling another meeting, we can continue our conversation now on the phone so that at the end of this conversation, you would have a very good sense as to whether or not I can deliver more value than your current solution is providing you and if it even makes sense for us to meet face to face in the first place. Which option would work better for you at this time?”

When you give people a choice and share with them the benefit of investing a little more time with you on the phone, you’ll find that your prospects are much more willing to do so. And if you’re saying that your prospects are, “too busy to spend more time with me” or “this won’t work in my industry,” I would challenge you to re-think whether or not this is truly your prospect’s objection or a costly assumption that you’ve created in your own mind. If this new marketplace has changed the way we sell and engage with our prospects, then the old rules of how we qualify and set appointments with our prospects much be challenged as well.

This win/win saves both you and the prospect time, while ensuring that you’re meeting with more of the right prospects.

Photo Credit: C. G. P. Grey or www.CGPGrey.com