As an entrepreneur your time is the most valuable thing you can give anyone.
Every business owner is a salesperson, and when you are starting out you have a certain amount of time to qualify new opportunities. The best salespeople only spend time with companies that are ready to buy or can explain a pain point in their business they’re looking to solve.
One of my coaching clients called me recently asking what to do about a perspective client that keeps setting up appointments and then breaking them without notice. I think you should allow people one screw-up, people are human. But just a meeting or scheduled conference call more than once is a big red flag. Years ago, Oprah said,” People show you who they are the first time.” Now she was talking about dating but the same rule applies to perspective clients. If the client can’t keep appointments or get back to you, it might mean they are really unorganized or that they do not value your time. Either way, walking away early is the best thing. Imagine what they would be like to actually work with on a project. When you decide to move on be careful not to show any annoyance or hostility to the perspective client. They next time they call simply say you are unavailable due to a huge new client you just took on.
Effectively qualifying opportunity requires you to have your ACT together! ACT is an acronym for the three key steps in the qualification process:
Ask for their budget. The phone screen is key to avoiding wasting time. Before you agree to your first appointment find out what the budget is for the project. It’s common to hear, “We have no idea, we are just gathering information.” or “Can you send me some information.” Respond with, “I would be happy to send you my marketing materials or a link to our website. When you are ready to move forward with some idea of a budget, I would be happy to meet with you and any other decision makers.”
Credibility. Now you need to validate their request: Try this, “I have several pieces of information I could send. Can you please tell me a bit about your business issue? If they say, “Just send me what you have,” you are not dealing with a well qualified opportunity. If they tell you about their business, the problem you will be solving, you should aggressively move forward.
Test. In the final step you are going to test the prospect’s intention by establishing next steps. Ask something such as, “Once you have the information, what is your timeline? What are the next steps?” Their response will give you insight into the seriousness of this business opportunity.
It’s a big mean world out here, and many times people will waist your time by picking you clean for free ideas, pricing, or just because they have no clue about your service. Don’t be fooled! Time is money. Qualify your prospects and watch your sales significantly increase!
If you have had any good or bad experiences with perspective clients, I want to hear from you about how you handled the situation, and any advice you have to share.