Pre-qualifying a lead is the act of testing whether a person who has expressed interest in your products or services (the prospect or ‘lead’) meets general buying criteria. In other words, is a lead likely to make a purchase? This is an important step in lead generation, as it helps you to focus your energy on those potential clients who are going to give you the best return on your investment of time and effort.
Some salespeople argue that pre-qualifying is unnecessary and a waste of time. Yet it is better to know who is truly interested in what you are offering before using up resources and not getting any revenue from it.
Here are some important questions to ask when pre-qualifying a lead.
Is there a need?
If a prospect has a need for your product or service, it gives it value. If there is no need, there is no motivation to buy. You shouldn’t assume that a prospect does indeed have a need, nor should you try to force a need where there is none.
Ask the prospect what challenges they face, and whether the problems created by these are worth solving. Also ask what the implications would be of not finding a solution to the problems. If there is a problem and it is worth solving, that means there is a need that you can fulfill.
Can you provide something unique?
After you have identified the challenges and problems, see whether you can provide the prospect with a unique solution that no-one else can. Make sure your prospect is not currently using something from another company that provides the same solution that you plan on giving them.
Questions to ask your prospect to discover uniqueness is whether they have tried solving these problems in the past. Also, if a solution has indeed been searched for and found, is it currently being implemented? Ask whether they have entered into any agreements with others regarding solving the problem they have shared with you.
Is there room in the prospect’s budget?
Even if the prospect displays a need for your product or service, and even if you can provide a unique solution to their problem, there still need to be resources and budget available for it.
Sometimes a prospect is only seeking information and does not plan to spend any money on getting a solution just yet. The prospect then becomes something the marketing department needs to handle, so that the sales team can pursue someone who has the money to invest.
Ask the prospect whether money has been allocated for the purpose of finding a solution to their problem or fulfilling their need. Find out where the money is coming from. If none is yet available, ask whether money from another area can perhaps be used for this purpose.
What influence does the prospect have?
Often a prospect does not have the necessary decision-making authority. This is very important to know, since you may be trying to convince the prospect to make a buying decision when they do not have any influence in the process – and are thus wasting your resources.
Find out whether the prospect has authority within the company, who else will be involved in the purchasing decision, if there is a committee that approves the decision and, if so, who is part of this committee.
Is it the right time?
You have hopefully by now established that the prospect has a need for which you have a unique solution, a budget that allows for a purchase to be made, and the authority to make important decisions. If all of the criteria fit, find out what kind of timeline your prospect is working with.
You need to find out whether there is a deadline attached to finding a solution to the problem and what it is. If the deadline is too far in the future, there is less likelihood that a purchase will be made. Discover how quickly the prospect wants to solve the problem. Urgency often speeds along purchasing decisions and ensures that the process happens at a quick pace. Also find out whether their problem is tied to seasonality, and whether a procurement process needs to be followed.
Now that you know which leads are most likely to bring you the most success, go out there and sell!