In the business world there is a term called the "unqualified prospect". This is an individual who claims to want or need your service/product, but who has not yet confirmed whether or not they will be able to make the purchasing decision. Unfortunately many inexperienced, and even seasoned sales representatives, spend valuable time on sales prospects that may never pan out because they are dealing with the wrong individual from the start of their pitch. When pitching or selling it is always best to deal with a qualified prospect, that way they have the authority to push forward the cash purchasing power in your direction.
1. Does the customer actually need what you're offering?
It is vitally important that you understand specifically the needs of your potential customers. This is an obvious fact. Your challenge is knowing when to get out of the way if you determine you are not able to meet the customers needs adequately. It is always polite to direct customers in the direction of someone who can meet their needs. You never know, they may come back to you in the future for another service you offer because of the quality treatment they received initially.
Never try to sell blindly, it's usually wasted effort, and more often than not it can be obtrusive and degrade your company's image.
2. Are you dealing with the decision maker(s)?
Ultimately, purchasing power usually comes down to one person. And so, if you're not dealing with that individual, the person you're talking to can most likely only decline the purchase. This person only has the authority to say "no" to the sale. You need to determine if the person you're working with actually has the purchasing power. Convincing someone who is not authorized to make purchasing decisions, whether it be a new company insurance policy, or carpet cleaning, will do you no good. You first need to determine who the decisions maker is and then work on getting closer to that person, whether it be through meetings or over the phone and asking to be escalated to higher management. Meeting with anyone but the decision maker will not get you any closer to sealing the deal.
3. Is there money budgeted for what you're selling?
Companies always have specific budgets for different types of services they commonly subscribe to or higher out people for. Often, a company may go through an investigatory process without ever intending to spend any money. If you're on the receiving end to this, you can really be wasting your time. It is advisable to inquire whether or not there is money already in the budget for the impending sale. You may find out that due to the way the company works, money is coming from the next year's budget, or that the sale is on hold until the next quarter when there is money in the budget again. If there is no money budgeted for the project you're proposing then it is probably in your best interest to walk away from the table, unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise. You may even find that money has to be spent by a certain date which should give you an advantage in the form of a pending event. Selling products or services around a particular company's critical deadlines is a very wise thing to do.
4. Is the customer able to buy from you without a conflict of interest?
Often times deals that seem like they're just about to go through fall apart for seemingly unknown reasons. Sometimes companies have divisions within them that are legally obligated to deal directly with subsidiaries or other contractors unbeknownst to you or the public. Most often these are groups that can provide the service or product at a reduced rate and have outstanding contracts with the company you are trying to sell to. Do your research up front to find out if a company has decisions or affiliates within it that provide similar products or services to yours and save your time trying to compete in a predetermined sale. Additionally, it is often useful to know who the company is currently buying from to know whether or not you can win any business away from them.
Michael Costigan speaks to teens and adults about effective communication so that they may make better informed decisions together. Read more about Michael here.