Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”
This phrase is the root of countless arguments, but it’s as good as gold when it comes to sales qualification. Your prospect will provide you as much information via their tone of voice and delivery as the words they actually speak.
Here are some tip-offs (both good and bad) to listen for when qualifying a prospect that can help you determine whether to advance the sales process or disqualify ASAP.
Good Signs to Move a Prospect Forward
Wait. How can excuses be a good thing?
According to Psychology Today, we make excuses to resolve cognitive dissonance — mental stress caused by holding conflicting beliefs. Excuses help resolve our actions with who we want to be.
During a sales conversation, your ears should perk up if your prospect tries to explain away previous inaction regarding business pain. This indicates one of two things: either the excuse is legitimate, or your prospect wishes they had done something about it earlier and is trying to rationalize why they didn’t. Either way, it confirms their pain is real.
Prospects who can give specific answers to questions such as “What are your goals?” and “When do you need to see results?” have thought carefully about their problem. Listen for sequential plans, thought-out explanations, and statistics. Specifics also indicate that your prospect feels real pain. After all, people without real problems don’t spend time thinking about why they exist and how to address them.
Of course, the caveat is that specifics must be accompanied by reality. A prospect who says, “I want to quadruple revenue in the next two weeks,” is using specifics to demonstrate that they don’t have strong business acumen.
Specificity’s partner is knowledge. A knowledge check is your best bet for qualifying at the stakeholder level. True decision makers will have intimate knowledge of company goals, challenges, and needs. A contact who doesn’t have access to this information likely isn’t going to be valuable in the sales process.
Red Flags in the Sales Process
A prospect whose answers contradict each other is likely one who wants to be helpful, but can’t because they don’t possess adequate knowledge. However, this isn’t a dealbreaker — prod them to tell you who does know the answers, and continue qualifying the opportunity with another contact.
True business pain permeates an organization — executives lose sleep over it and employees have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. If you give the impression that you can help alleviate the pain, prospects will want to talk to you.
A prospect who’s giving you one-word answers isn’t someone who feels there’s basis for a conversation. It could be that the problem is a non-issue, or the contact isn’t clued in enough to feel its severity. Depending on what you think is going on, disqualify or try reaching out to another member of the organization.
Over to You
Sales success rests on effective qualification. Your ability to find good fit prospects will make or break your business. Prospects who turn into happy customers mean not only revenue, but increased word-of-mouth, referrals, and the possibility of cross- or upselling. So it’s imperative that you get it right.
Want to learn more? Check out the weaknesses that cripple a rep's ability to qualify here.
Originally published Dec 17, 2020 3:00:00 PM, updated December 18 2020