Every seller is concerned about qualifying their prospects. We all want to be in front of prospects who can buy—that is, who not only have a need or desire but also the means to consummate the purchase. Qualifying a prospect can be simple or complex depending on how many criteria a suspect must meet in order to be classified as a quality prospect.
Consequently we sellers try to use as many tools at our disposal as possible to learn about and quality those we think could be quality prospects for us. And one of the most important and oft used tools is the question, open ended, probing questions in particular.
Unfortunately we seldom, if ever, consider that the prospect is doing exactly the same thing to us—they are actively trying to determine if we are someone they would buy from.
Many of us have been taught that our sequence of events should be: qualify, present, close, answer objections, close again. This sequence has a number of variations, some quite complex, but in the end, this is the format a great many of use have been taught.
Although we view our questions as important discovery questions, we tend to view the prospect’s questions as either worrisome objections or diversions that are nothing but a smokescreen or are out-n-out buying signals. For many of us, the questions and actions of the prospect are either those of an enemy or those of someone telling us they are ready to buy.
What if neither of those choices is true?
What if all of those questions and the statements by the prospect, instead of being obstacles to our sale or indications of their desire to consummate the purchase, are simply questions and statements to help them qualify us and our offering?
What if they are doing the same to us as we are doing to them?
If that is the case, then that means we’re neither dealing with an enemy to be overcome nor are we dealing with someone asking us to close them. Instead we’re dealing with a human being who wants to know whether or not we’re trustworthy, whether or not our offering is appropriate for them, whether or not we’re wasting their time.
In other words, they are in the process of qualifying us just as much as we’re qualifying them. When we qualify a prospect we ask questions and probe to discover who we’re dealing with and what we might be able to do for them. When we’re asking questions we’re not trying to play the ‘gotcha’ game. Most of us aren’t trying to trap them into a sale. We’re honestly seeking information that allows us to know whether or not we are in front of a real prospect with a real need that we can help solve in a way that produces real value for them.
The prospect is going through the same process with us. Whether they are conscious of it or not, they’re trying to determine whether or not we are someone they want to do business with and then, whether or not our product/service/company presents any real solid worthwhile value for them.
The traditional terms sellers think in—overcoming objections, closing the sale, etc.—tend to set up an adversarial relationship where we are on the lookout for the dreaded objection and the opportunity to pounce with the closing question.
However, if we recognize that the sales process involves both parties qualifying one another and that the qualifying process involves the investigation and questioning of each party, we can relax and begin to address the prospect’s questions for what they really are—a legitimate desire to find out who we are and whether or not we are someone they want to work with.
Recognize an honest qualifying question for what it is. Maybe those questions you are trying to overcome, especially about price or quantity or delivery or usage, aren’t objections or buying signals at all but are just honest discovery questions.
Go forth and qualify—and let yourself be qualified. It’s a whole lot more fun to sell when you’re working with a prospect to mutually qualify one another than it is to try to out fox and overcome an adversary.
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