67 percent of lost sales occur as a result of sales representatives not properly pre-qualifying their leads. This often-overlooked, yet essential step of the sales process can save time and resources otherwise wasted on unqualified leads. Most small business owners have a small sales team, sometimes consisting of only one person. It can be challenging to focus time and energy on the prospects that are most likely to buy, but pre-qualifying your sales leads before you contact them can turn an overwhelming list of prospects to an organized, focused list of sales-qualified leads. Here are a few simple steps to help entrepreneurs pre-qualify their online sales leads.
Identify Your Target Customer
Being a great salesperson is about more than just selling a product; when you truly know your target audience, you are really helping your customers buy your product. This is an important distinction. Many salespeople find themselves focused on a need they think is important to their prospects and how their product or service can easily fill the need. However, if the prospect doesn't have that need or see the same urgency in filling that need, the salesperson will waste time and energy trying to sell the wrong thing. Instead of diving straight into a sales pitch with every new lead, take the time to screen your prospects to determine who has a need for your product or service. Ask yourself:
- Who needs my product or service?
- What specific challenges do my customers face and how does my product or service help solve them?
- Who makes purchasing decisions in my customer's business or residence?
- How much are my customers willing to pay to solve their problem?
Identify Your Strengths
You already know what sets you apart from your competition, but do your prospects know? It is not enough to simply list a number of reasons your product or service is better than another company's â€“you have to show the lead why your business can meet your customer's needs better than anyone else. To accomplish this, you will need to listen to your prospects to learn more about the solution they are looking for and then sell into that idea.
Identify the Timeline
After establishing that the prospect is part of your target audience and can benefit from your unique product or service, and that they can afford the product and have the authority to make the purchase, the final step in qualifying your lead is to determine how timely your offer is to the lead at that moment. For example, imagine you own a custom closet design and construction company. You gain a prospect that is interested in your product, but will be unlikely to purchase until the following year after they have moved into their new house. This is not a qualified lead that requires your attention right now. Keep their information so you can stay in touch until they are ready to purchase, but focus your immediate attention on prospects with more timely needs. Ask your prospect these questions to narrow your list of sales-qualified leads:
- When would you like this product or service?
- How quickly do you need this project to be completed?
- What makes you want or need to address these issues now?
- Are there any deadlines, seasonal requirements or any other issues we need to know about?
Concentrate Your Efforts
Narrow your focus to reduce your prospects list to only include those people who fit your target audience and who would benefit most from your product or service. The ideal customer is someone who is actively seeking a solution to their problem, could benefit from your product, has the authority to purchase your product, and can afford to purchase your product immediately or in the near future.
You can qualify a prospect fairly quickly, and should do so before diving into the sales process. By pre-qualifying your prospects, you can use your time and resources more efficiently, focusing your efforts on selling to the right people at the right time.
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