As a sales professional, qualifying prospects should be one of your top priorities. Working with qualified prospects helps you earn bigger commissions and reduces the amount of time you have to spend with people who have no intention of buying the products or services you are selling. There are several different criteria used to identify qualified prospects, but sales expert Mike Brooks believes two of them are more important than the others.
Qualifiers are the criteria you use to determine if someone is merely a lead or a qualified prospect. For most salespeople, buying motives, potential objections, budget and buying timelines are among the most common qualifiers used to set qualified prospects apart from tire kickers. Brooks says all of these criteria are important, but he says salespeople should be focusing on two qualifiers that don't get a lot of attention: competition and decision makers.
Using competition as a qualifier helps determine if any of your leads have reached out to your competitors before contacting your company. Start by asking potential customers if they have contacted anyone else in your industry. If they give you specific names, don't try to make a sale by bad-mouthing your competitors. Instead, ask follow-up questions to determine if they are happy with your competitors' products and services or if you have an opportunity to position your company as the best supplier in your market. Focusing on competition is a useful tool for identifying qualified prospects, but it's also helpful for gathering information about your market.
Asking about decision makers is important whether you are in a business-to-business or business-to-consumer industry. The person you talk to might not be the person responsible for making the final buying decision, so asking if there are any other decision makers involved in the process helps you determine the best way to turn leads into qualified prospects. If you sell cars, for example, you might meet with one spouse while the other spouse is at work. Both spouses might have equal input, so you need to be able to satisfy both people, not just the person doing initial research into vehicle models and prices. The same goes for salespeople pitching products to large organizations. You might talk to a human resources manager looking for a robust HRIS system, but the HR manager likely has to get the input of IT professionals and executives before agreeing to buy a system from you.
Qualifying prospects is not a waste of time, but a valuable exercise that can help you make more sales and earn bigger commissions. If you are not sure if you are dealing with qualified prospects, find out if your leads have talked to any of your competitors. Then, check with leads to see if there are any other decision makers who need to be involved in the process.
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