Why the best time to disqualify a prospect is as soon as you can
Salespeople still call them tyre kickers, even though very few of us now work on a car lot. They are prospects with no prospect: leads that will never become deals.
They are a waste of time: so, how can you quickly identify them and move on?
Here’s three sure-fire ways.
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The path ahead test
The earlier you apply this test with your prospect, the better.
Dust it down during an early discovery call, straight after you have found out about their business challenges and shared some high-level info about your solution.
Simply announce that you can share how you implemented a similar solution for another client in the same position.
And then see what they say.
The prospect may admit that, actually, they are not interested in how you’d implement your solution to fix a problem.
They’ve just stopped you from wasting resources and time on a demo that will never be followed through on.
If they say ‘yes’ to your question, you have a buyer-signal and explicit permission to move forward.
Take this time to show them your high-level plan that stretches out to a solution. Make it something easy, something they can share with their boss. Sketch in dates with the steps between milestones safe and reasonable, so they can trust them straight away.
Don’t go for anything that requires a leap of faith: keep it all reassuringly reasonable.
The personal plan
It’s time to polish up the nest disqualification question.
This goes something like this:
‘If the road map looks reasonable, and the end destination favourable, would you like to see how it looks if we run your specific situation through it?’
Again, they may say, ‘no’. And again, that’s good.
They’re telling you that things are moving too fast. So, you need to find out why things are getting uncomfortable right now.
Are you asking for too much change?
Are there risk factors you haven’t discussed?
Does the value added no longer seem sufficient?
Is the timing bad?
It may be that there is an easy fix to move things on or it may be a tougher fix – as long as there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s worth keeping on.
However, if they’re just not interested, consider them disqualified and pop them back into a nurturing sequence.
For those that answer positively, you can take them by the hand for a deep dive into the most profound discovery questions.
Think nitty gritty questions like:
‘You’ll need a security audit before the pilot, so let’s get in our head of technical implementation and your head of security.’
‘Typically, procurement takes a month. Can we double check with your team on their timelines?’
‘Is there anyone we haven’t captured here that needs to be involved?’
And so, you push the deal closer and closer to a close.
Staying on Track
At this stage, you have a mutual action plan in place with clear milestones marking the way ahead.
Things are progressing but they still need to stay on track. Your buyer needs to remain accountable and, should things fall off a bit, you need to ask your final disqualifying question:
‘Are you willing to work with me to adjust your plan and get back on track?’
They may answer, ‘no’.
Without a mutual action plan this is no longer a qualified deal. Frustrating as it is, you need to let it go, keeping in mind that at least you didn’t wait another few months trying to rescue a deal that was dead in the water.
Make sure you do some reviews, however.
Was the deal ever real?
Did something actually change or did you read the cards wrong?
Is there a question you could ask next time that would prevent this?
Is the deal dead or just delayed?
And, if it is just delayed, when is a realistic time to reconvene.
If your prospect agrees to work with you, pull up your plan, reaffirm your value proposition, and re-work the timeline.
This simple reset has qualified the deal once more, allowing you to move forward with confidence.
The last word on disqualification
A disqualified prospect is not a lost deal: there was never a deal in the first place.
Of course, you can lose a deal in many ways: not responding quickly enough, ignoring objections, skipping to demo way too fast, and so on.
But when you disqualify you simply buy yourself time to make other deals: deals with good prospects rather than a bad prospect.
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