If I were asked for the most important rule in sales, I say it was that: “You can’t close an unqualified lead.”
If you want to improve your closing ratio right away, and start making more money, then thoroughly qualify each and every prospect and client before you set up your close or demo or run your appointment.
Let me tell you a story: I was in the Bay Area giving a training to a group of tech sales reps, and I was talking about what makes up a qualified lead and how important it is. I went over the six things you need to know about each prospect before you set up a close, and then I covered specific scripted questions (along with rebuttals for any resistance) and how to get this information.
The sales reps sat around the conference table with a look of wonder on their faces. Only one person in the back of the room was smiling broadly and nodding his head up and down. Turns out he was a new rep who had just joined the team after working for IBM.
After I was done with the qualifying piece of the training, this rep raised his hand and told the following story:
“I know exactly what you’re talking about in terms of fully qualifying leads before setting them up for a demo or appointment. In fact, the number one rep in our division at IBM had a team of “qualifiers” who would make the initial calls and then turn the leads over to this guy for his approval.
“This rep (we’ll call him Brad), had put together a “qualifying checklist” of ten items he demanded his qualifiers ask, and if they turned a lead over without at least eight of the questions answered, he’d turn the lead back over and tell them to call back and get the rest of the questions answered.
“Now here’s the thing,” this rep said, now almost shaking with enthusiasm. “All the other reps would have been happy if three or four of the questions had been answered. We’d all of considered that a good lead to call!
“But not Brad. Brad wouldn’t waste his time with what he called, “non-qualified leads” because he said he didn’t need the practice of trying to close sales. He said he’s only interested in pitching and closing qualified leads.”
And then he dropped the bomb that made believers out of all the other sales reps in attendance:
“And the thing was, Brad was the number one producer in our division and grossed over one million dollars a year in commissions!”
And that’s the characteristic you need concentrate on with each and every prospect or “lead” you generate. You have to make sure they are fully qualified. Ask this about every lead before you set a demo or appointment:
1) Why will this person buy? What’s their specific buying motive? Hot buttons?
2) Why won’t this person (or company, etc.) buy? What’s the likely objection that will kill the deal?
3) Who are all the decision makers? What is this person’s role?
4) Timeline! What is the decision process like? How long will it take? How many hoops do you need to jump through? How soon – or how long – are they going to take to make a decision on this?
5) Competition. Who are you competing against? Is their old supplier or vendor still in the mix? Why would they choose you?
6) Budget. What is your prospect or client looking to spend? Is your solution perceived as having enough value to justify your cost? If not, how can you build that?
These are the six basic qualifiers that you need to know about every lead before you enter the closing area. There may be more given your particular sale, and if so, you’d better create your own “qualifying checklist” and make sure that you know this information well in advance.
If, for some reason, you didn’t learn everything on the first call, then consider strongly “requalifying” at the beginning of your close or demo. Ask these questions at the beginning of the call so you’ll have the leverage you’ll need to confidently close later.
There is a reason Brad wasn’t interested in attempting to close leads that weren’t completely qualified. He knew the basic rule of sales: You can’t close an unqualified lead.
So stop trying! Fully qualify upfront and watch your closing ratio soar.