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Nov 05

Qualifying Customers

Posted by: Steve Marr

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My experience has taught me that most salespeople do not adequately qualify prospects. Knocking on doors, sitting in front of a prospect, writing proposals is not necessarily the most effective way of getting business. We need to engage in an orderly process to properly qualify customers.  Then, we can focus on those who are the best possible prospects.

First, determine if a customer has the finances to buy the product or service. Do this by asking the customer if they budgeted for the cost. I worked with an award-winning landscape architect who fielded calls from people wanting yard work. My client focused on projects at $40,000 and above. Customers looking for a $5,000- 10,000 job were not an effective use of time. My client simply referred them to other landscaping services. While it is important not to arbitrarily reject prospects, we need to make a reasonable determination about their ability to afford what we are selling.


When selling to other businesses, we need to identify who has the authority to make decisions.  I usually ask what the decision process is in an organization. If the person I’m working with is simply gathering information for the decision-maker, I strive to find a way to connect directly with the person who makes the final choice.  Asking a lot of questions may be helpful; however, you may need to refer some questions to the decision-maker. This could generate the need for a phone call or meeting in the future. When I am unable to work directly with the decision- maker, I intentionally focus less time on the prospect because my experience tells me that the likelihood of closing the sale is significantly diminished.

Also we need to determine if the customer has a need or desire that your product or service can effectively meet. For example, if the customer only wants a lower price; focus on cost instead of sales parameters to see if it is possible to win the business. I’ve also learned that when a customer seems content with a current supplier, the likelihood of landing the account is significantly reduced. 

One way to understand a customer’s desire is to conduct a needs analysis. Ask the customer probing questions to define exactly what the customer expects and wants.  An effective needs analysis allows us to identify the prospect’s need or decide if we are off target and need to back off. This saves a lot of time and effort.

King Solomon wrote, “The purposes of a person's heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5, NIV) When marketing, a substantial part of our responsibility is to probe the individual and draw out insights that allow us to determine if the person we’re spending time with is qualified as a prospective customer. Remember, our goal is not to increase sales calls or make proposals; our goal is to close business.

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