Not everyone on your radar is a prospect for your product or service. If you're pitching to people who truly don't need (or can't afford) to buy what you have to sell, then you're wasting your time. To minimize this problem and become more effective (and productive), take the time to qualify your leads before launching into your sales presentation. The following steps will help you turn prospects into purchasers.
If Your Leads Are The Decision Makers
The very first thing you should be asking yourself is whether or not the person you're talking to is authorized to buy from you. In B2B sales you may need to seek out a purchasing person, the department head, the office manager, or perhaps the company owner. In B2C sales a prospect may need (or want) to share their final decision with a spouse, parent, or significant other. The more information you have, the more empowered you are.
Conduct a Prospect Inventory
Find out what the prospect already owns that's in the same category as your product (or products) and get as much detailed information as possible. For example, if you're selling cell phones, don't just ask if the customer already owns a phone, ask them how long ago they purchased their phone and if it's a regular cell phone or a smartphone. Find out if they have other high-tech or mobile devices such as a laptop or tablet and if they use a land-line phone as well as a cell phone.
Gauge Their Comfort Level With Their Current Product
Once you have the basic information about their current product, dig deeper to find out what their likes and dislikes are. This information will come in handy when you reach the presentation phase because you'll already understand their preferences. If the prospect is interested in a cell phone, you would inquire as to the features they use the most, and the ones they don't use at all and whether or not they're happy with the size of their current phone. Other selling points would be the size of the keys (for non-touchscreen phones) and the quality of the reception. The important thing is to dig deep so you can meet their needs.
Inquire About Timing
Even if a prospect is interested in your product, they may not be able to buy at the present time. Often it comes down to a budget issue, and the timing's not right. Other times, it's because a contract hasn't expired or a key person they need consensus from is out of town. To determine the circumstances, ask time-sensitive questions like, “How soon would you want to put this in place?" and "If I show you how you can save money and time and improve your situation, would you be ready to make a purchase today?”
Sometimes the prospect already owns a product that works for them, and buying your product wouldn't be any kind of improvement. In that case, don't try to fast-talk or pressure them into buying from you. It's much better to confess, "I think your current setup is just fine for you right now.” The prospect will appreciate your honesty and you'll have a good chance of making the sale at a later date when their situation changes (e.g. the product breaks down or their current provider jacks up their fees).