Whether you sell on a showroom floor to mum and dads or work the corporate B2B sector this editorial will give you the basics to put in place a follow-up system that will take the pain out of qualifying a prospect.
What I learned about qualifying prospects
First tip – It is better to have a system than wait until you have the perfect system.
For every opinion you will get a different perspective. For example when I shared the following system I recently put together I got so many ideas thrown at me as to how to improve it that I finally had to close off the channel of comments and go with what I had.
My OLD Approach To Qualifying Prospects
Years ago, I was taught when I first got into sales that having completed a presentation I should ask the prospect when I should follow them up. That way when I telephoned several days later I was doing so with their permission.
Recently I contacted and did a sales presentation to two prospects, one based in the city and the other in a major rural town.
In each case I followed up at the agreed time that the prospect had agreed to. In each case I made five follow-up calls based on the timetable agreed to by each of these prospects.
What was the outcome qualifying these prospects?
I was the only person who actually delivered on what I promised (surprise, surprise). Each prospect said that they would either review my emails or speak to one of my references, but in each case they kept apologising saying that they would get around to reviewing my material eventually. Which they didn’t.
The first prospect is still very keen, he tells me. He also feels that his business needs my service and he will eventually get around to making a decision. As he affirmed with me on each call, “Ken, we need your service to grow our business.”
At this rate I am expecting a call when I retire, at least we will be old friends by then.
The second prospect got really annoyed. Having sought agreement each time as to when I should follow-up with him, he finally got back to me with a decision. “I can’t work with you – you phone too much and are extremely pushy.” So much for our agreement.
What did I learn about qualifying these prospects?
As several of my successful real estate agent clients tell me, ” buyers are liars!”
The real truth is that everybody is maxed out with their time and I don’t believe any one approach is the right approach. Some people hate the thought of rejection, so not wanting to hurt your feelings or have to confront a situation they simply won’t say NO, hoping you will get the idea by their inaction and finally stop following them up.
Then there are those people who can’t make a decision for whatever reason and you reminding them of this forces them into a corner where they attack you for their lack of backbone.
Then there is the rest of the business community who differ so much on this subject that you will never understand or meet each everyone idea of when they should be followed up. For the most part, they don’t understand themselves – good luck dealing with these guys.
My NEW Approach To Qualifying Prospects
First tip – Don’t try and work out whether the prospect is a ‘maybe’ or ‘hot’ for what you are offering, you will find yourself knocking on the door of the funny farm.
Having had these recent experiences, I now have in place a follow-up system utilising e-mail software that tells me the following:
When and how many times a person has opened my e-mail.
Embedded in each e-mail is a series of links to information that an interested prospect would want to read. The e-mail software tells me how many times they clicked on each of these links.
If they forwarded my e-mail to somebody else in their own organisation and the number of times they clicked through the various links in my e-mail.
With this system in place, I no longer need to second guess whether a prospect is interested or not. As you know, when someone is interested in buying your product or service they tend to read through all the material you send them.
With this e-mail system in place it tells me their level of interaction and gives me a list of hot to cold prospects.
I do not telephone these prospects until they have been through the five-day process. Out of these prospects I only follow-up the ones who have interacted a great deal with my e-mail system.
How has this helped me qualify prospects?
It has freed me up to contact more prospects. I no longer need to second-guess these people and my time is being used more effectively by only working with people who have shown an actual interest, which is judged by their interaction with my five-part email series. The more emails they open and links they click suggests a heightened level of interest.
As I said to one friend recently, why would you bother speaking to people who couldn’t be bothered opening up and reading the valuable material you have sent them.
It is a known fact that people who are serious about buying want as much information as they can get their hands on and will happily interact with your email follow-up sequence when you send them another information packed e-mail that is designed to educate them on improving their situation through the use of your product or service.
The lesson I have learned about qualifying prospects
There are more than enough potential clients in any market that you do not need to waste your time on people you think are prospects, when in fact they just don’t know how to say ‘NO’ and were never really interested in buying from you in the first place.
You are better off investing your time by qualifying prospects that have the means and desire to go ahead.