Eight Questions That Determine if a Prospect is a Waste of Your Time

Proposal submitted, follow up done but no response from the prospect. They expressed interest but where did your customer go? Since 55% of selling time is wasted on unproductive prospecting, here are eight questions that prevent prospects from going MIA, increase sales and keep you focused on the right opportunities to prevent sales frostbite.

Get a Free Copy of Keith’s New book, The 60 Second Sales Coach!

The Disappearing Act – When Prospects Go Dark

“I sent the proposal. The prospect said they would review it and get back to me next week. They sounded engaged and excited about what we can do for them. A week went by and I didn’t get a response, so I reached out to them, left a voice mail and sent an email. Still, no response. I guess they weren’t interested, didn’t like me or what we offered, probably went with another company, stayed with their current provider or felt our solution didn’t fit their budget. I wish I could do something to reconnect with them before they go dark and I never hear from them again.”

Missing In Action – Where Did My Customer Go?

Every salesperson has experienced this at some point. The typical strategy to counteract this situation would be to continue to follow up with them, move them down the list of priority prospects, or remove them from your database of leads and opportunities.

With the time invested in trying to convert prospects into loyal, happy clients, the worst thing a salesperson can do is invest their time with prospects who are not and will never be a good fit. The exponential cost is, when you invest your day focusing on the wrong prospects, you’re no longer investing your time with the right ones. To compound this costly conundrum, you’re now helping your competition win the business that could have been yours.

Statistics show that more than 55% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting and 70% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel. 

So, where’s the breakdown? Is it the salesperson’s skill, will, process, attitude or discipline? What if the root cause of this costly conundrum is not having the right questions to masterfully qualify every opportunity?

I’m not just referring to the foundational questions used during your discovery process. These are the questions that would gather information about their industry, company, competitive landscape, challenges, goals, desired level of customer service, expectations from you and your product/service, current solutions or vendors they’re using, their decision-making process, the criteria they use when choosing a vendor or making a buying decision, the information they need that’s most important for them, and so on.

Instead, salespeople need to focus on deeper, critical qualifying questions that prevent prospects from disappearing by challenging prospects how they truly feel about you and the likelihood that they, at some point, will transform from a prospect and into a customer.

Sales Frostbite – How to Prevent Warm Prospects from Going Cold

Here are eight questions to ask at the end of the initial qualifying step to ensure it’s an opportunity worth perusing while preventing your prospects from going MIA.

Asking these questions keep your costly assumptions about each prospect at bay so you are making decisions based on the facts rather than fiction.

Eight Questions That Determine if a Prospect’s RFP is a Waste of Your Time

1. I’m happy to send you the proposal, and the information you requested. To ensure I meet your expectations, what information do you need that will determine if we are the best partner and solution for you?

2. When do you need this information?

3. I would love to get this information to you tomorrow. However, I don’t want to do you a disservice and rush through this, which is why I want to ensure I give this the time and attention it deserves. So, what’s the latest I can get this to you while honoring your timeline?

Tip From the Coach: Most people want things done yesterday. However, it doesn’t mean they need it at the time they requested. Instead of feeling stressed about honoring a tight deadline, this question creates more time for you. You can also suggest a deadline that you know you can deliver on without feeling overwhelmed or dropping other priorities. For example; “Would it still work around your timetable if I get this to you by Friday?”

4. Can you share the process you go through when reviewing proposals like these?

5. If I get this proposal to you by Friday, given your current schedule, when do you think you’ll have a chance to review it? (Just because they said they wanted it on a certain day doesn’t mean they will have the time to review what you send, especially if there are more people involved in the decision. Now, let’s assume they say Tuesday.)

6.  If you have a chance to review this by Tuesday, when would be a good time to schedule our next meeting to discuss it and ensure it’s aligned with your expectations so we can take the next step? (If you want to be more intentional, you can always suggest two days and times that work for you. For example: “What works better for you? Thursday or Friday? Do you prefer the morning or afternoon?”

Tip From the Coach: Always ensure you have the next step identified and scheduled to move your sales process forward. Scheduling the next step removes the ambiguity around the next step without continuous and often annoying follow-ups.

7. Other than you, who else, if anyone, needs to review this proposal who’s also part of the decision-making process and needs to be included in our next meeting?

8. I know everyone gets busy. If I don’t hear from you by next week or if we’re unable to reconnect, what’s the best way to get in touch with you? Through your assistant, your mobile, a text, your office number, horse and buggy, pager, homing pigeon, snail mail, email, Skype, InMail, Morse code, or telegraph? (If they can’t commit to a scheduled time to reconnect, this question interjects humor, while identifying their preferred channel of communication.)

Tip from the coach: If they’re unable to answer these questions or are reluctant to do so, consider this a warning sign that they may not be a qualified prospect who is truly be committed to making this a priority, exploring a partnership with you, or investing in your solution. Always be on the lookout for those prospects who collect other bids and RFP’s to be compliant around their vendor selection, knowing their intention is to use your information to justify staying with their existing solution provider or are using you as a negotiation tool against another competitor they want to work with.

You’re Not Done Yet

Now that you have gone layers deeper to assess if this person is a viable prospect and confirmed the next step in your sales process, here’s how to end the conversation to avoid any miscommunication and keep the process moving forward.

“Thanks Mr./Mrs. Customer for your time. You can expect an email containing the information you requested, a recap of what we discussed, and our next steps. Thanks again for the opportunity to work with you. Have a great day.

Tip from the Coach: Hold Your Prospects Accountable.

I bet most of your customers are good at holding you accountable. But how good are you at holding your customers accountable to ensure they are also taking responsibility for achieving their desired results and developing the successful relationship they want?

Use these questions on your next prospect. This deeper level of qualifying will make your sales process easier, increase your forecast accuracy, close more sales and give you more time each day to focus on the right prospects, disqualify the wrong ones and make you a sales champion.



P.S. – I’m personally taking on 10 coaching clients for my private practice. (I’ll never top coaching leaders, whether in a coach training course or one on one. It’s too much fun and way too rewarding!) If you’re interested, make sure we’re connected on LinkedIn, send me a note, or email me at KeithR@KeithRosen.com and we’ll schedule a call to see if there’s a fit.