Not everyone on Earth is a prospect for your product or service. If you’re pitching to people who truly don’t need or can’t buy what you have to sell, you’re wasting your time. To minimize this problem, try taking a few minutes to qualify your leads before launching into your full-bore sales presentation.
Are They the Decision Maker?
The very first thing you should find out is whether the person you’re talking to is authorized to buy from you.
In B2B sales you may need to seek out a purchasing person, the department head, the office manager, or even the company owner. In B2C sales a prospect may need or want to share the decision with a spouse, parent or significant other.
What Do They Have?
Find out what the prospect already owns that’s in the same category as your products, and get as much detail as possible. In other words, if you’re selling cell phones, don’t just ask if the customer already has a phone; ask questions like “How long ago did you buy it? Is it a regular cellphone or a smartphone? Do you have other mobile devices (e.g. laptop, tablet)? Do you have a land-line phone as well as a cellphone?”
How Do They Feel About Their Current Product?
Once you have the basic information about their current product, dig for what their likes and dislikes are about it. This information is incredibly useful when you reach the presentation phase since you’ll already know what their preferences are.
For the cell phone example above, you would ask questions like, “What features do you use a lot? What features do you never use? Is the phone bigger or smaller than you’d like? How about the size of the keys (for non-touchscreen phones)? How’s the reception from your home, work, etc.?”
Are They Able to Switch?
Even if a prospect is interested in your product, they may not be able to buy right now.
Most often that’s a budget issue – they simply can’t afford to buy right now. Other times, it’ll be something like a contract that hasn’t expired yet or a key person who’s out of town on vacation. So you need to ask a few time-qualifying questions like, “How soon would you want to put this in place? If I show you how you can save money/save time/improve yourself/etc., would you be ready to buy today?”
Is Your Product Really Better Than What They Have?
Sometimes the prospect already owns a product that works great for them, and buying your product really wouldn’t be any kind of improvement. In that case, don’t try to fast-talk or pressure them into buying from you. It’s much better to confess, “Mr. Prospect, I think that your current setup is just fine for you right now.” The prospect will appreciate your honesty and you’ll have a great chance of making the sale later on, when his situation changes (e.g. the product breaks down or his current provider cranks his fees way up).