NOTE: I’m re-publishing this article from early 2011 based on a group conversation that took place at a recent MNI ‘New Advertising Sales Rep’ training seminar. I trust my new readers will find this information valuable, and if it’s the second time you’re reading this I hope it serves as a gentle reminder.
A real life scenario: Years ago, I accompany a junior salesperson (let’s call him “Alan”) on a first visit. Alan assures me he is well prepared to demonstrate how our product can help this prospect (let’s call her “Cathy”) exceed her marketing objectives. We walk through the front door of this retail establishment and make introductions (I also explain I’m only there to observe.) Alan launches into a brief needs analysis so Cathy feels confident that he understands her business. Anxiously, Alan then explains the features of our product and accurately aligns resulting benefits to Cathy’s business. Positioning for an ‘assumed close,’ Alan tells Cathy that he can launch an ROP campaign to drive traffic through her doors that upcoming weekend – going so far as to hand her a recommended insertion schedule he’d prepared in advance. It’s at that point that Cathy looks at me and I can see in her eyes that she is quickly deflating. She calmly explains to Alan that her business – as clearly communicated on her website and in all of her advertising – is not open on Saturday and Sundays. I can hear Alan “gulp” from across the table.
Fortunately, Cathy is a kind and gentle person who went on to be a longtime loyal client. She understood that Alan was just getting started in media sales and was appreciative that he took such interest in her business. We walked out that day with a sale despite the fact Alan broke the cardinal rule of sales; he did not properly qualify and research his prospect!
(Note: I had to laugh as we exited Cathy’s store and I pointed out to Alan that her business hours were posted on the very door we had originally walked through.)
Just to be certain everyone understands the difference between qualifying and researching, I’ll explain:
– Qualifying is the process of identifying if a prospect needs your products or services, if they have the financial means to purchase what you’re selling, and if they have the authority or ability to make the decision to buy.
– If, after determining whether or not a prospect is qualified, you then move on to the researching phase – which is the process of collecting as much information about the prospect, their product, their target audience and their competition as you possibly can.
We live in a technical age where we have a plethora of information at our fingertips. There is no excuse for not knowing a little bit of everything about a prospect before you even engage them in conversation. In some cases, effectively qualifying a prospect on your list will reveal that they are not a good fit for the newspaper product you are offering – allowing you to move on to the next prospect. In most cases, the information you collect doing a few minutes of research will keep you from making silly mistakes like our friend “Alan” that can potentially blow a sales opportunity.
The time, energy, and even financial resources you devote to selling to an unqualified prospect could be causing you to miss a more valuable sales opportunity. Some of my favorite research tools are just a few clicks away – I implore you to take a few moments with any or all of these resources to help make qualifying your prospects a more efficient and effective process:
- And of course, do not forget that Google, Facebook and Twitter are also valuable research tools!
Have a terrific week,
If there are specific topics you’d like to see discussed in a future issue of The Sales Cycle, please contact me at 612-278-0223 or firstname.lastname@example.org