It’s critical to nail qualifying prospects with elegance and ease to save time, money and our sanity. But many lose their mojo and feel awkward with this front end process.
Even with a fantastic brand, website, sales and marketing strategies, qualifying prospects is a key process for all businesses. But qualifying can be really tough for SMEs who grapple with sales conversations, assertiveness or are new to self-employment.
The key three steps are:
Step 1 – Willing
Has the prospect acknowledged they have a problem and are seeking a solution?
Is the prospect willing to admit they have a problem that needs solving? This is simplifying the steps of pain identification and acceptance here as there are many steps and techniques to uncover covert or overt pain points that need solving. And dependent on your service, many prospects are like mushrooms to their issues.
But it will be pretty clear quickly where a prospect is on their acceptance. And your industry and own marketing efforts will have hopefully done a great job in raising that awareness. So this step can be a longer tail discussion to draw out the implications of problems. But for many services the need is a crystal clear and easy, but at what depth is a variable and needs extra probing.
Step 2 – Ready
Are they ready to solve that problem now or soon?
Beware though. many people may admit they have an issue but it’s in the “would be nice to solve when I have time etc” vs “urgent must solve” pot. And it’s the “must solve” pot that you want to determine. There is no point investing further time now for those in the ‘in 12 months I will be ready’. It’s a bit like the Anthony Robbins principle, the level of pain must surpass the level of comfort in changing the current situation.
Step 3 – Able
Can they afford it?
This step is where many struggle (esp when dealing with other SMEs or solo operators). But it is critical to identify ASAP if the prospect is price shopping, seeking quality services and can pay for them. Identifying this before any further time, meetings or proposals is crucial – especially in services which are competitive. Sure price feels “tacky to discuss” but it is the first objection given to squash a deal or get out of an uncomfortable conversation.
There are a few ways to tackle this. The prospect may raise the question first. Or you could weave it in without pressure, depending on the variables of your services you may have a wide berth (i.e. what does a website cost is like asking what does a car cost).
You can respond to specific price questions with “it’s hard to say exactly for your specific needs, but my services range from $ abc to $ xyz. And if you don’t have a range, but an hourly rate or major package, give it up front. No need to “prove your worth or value” at this point. Then pause and wait for the response and tone from the prospect.
What they say next and how they say it will be your general cue for further discussions. Dependent on their response you may then ask if they had a budget in mind or dive deeper. Or you could ask directly, “Just curious, did you set aside a budget for this or is there some scope based on needs and results?”
So hold your nerve, do the steps with a relaxed and pressure free perspective. You will save time and energy and qualify more ideal prospects.
Sue Parker, Founder and Chief Human, DARE Group Australia