SCORE Small Business Blog

The Process of Turning Leads into Sales

If your business relies on a great deal of cold calls and referrals, then you know the importance of properly qualifying prospects. Qualifying allows you to learn about your prospect and their needs in order to determine how your product can meet those needs. Business owners can save time by using the telephone, one-on-one or any of the social media options as an effective tool to pre-qualify customers (if they have shared enough information).  Now, if they do not provide the information needed then maybe the use of a phone can enable you to play the odds better, thus allowing you to cover a larger geographic area to screen potential customers and set up appointments.

It is essential to accurately track these calls and designate whether a prospect provides low or high customer potential. When organizing your calls or visits schedule, move the lower-potential prospects to the bottom of the list. Catalog all the calls you make, maintaining a call-back schedule. Update this schedule frequently. It may be helpful to employ a software program specifically designed for tracking calls or create your own in a spreadsheet format.

As a business owner, your ability to qualify depends on the number of different questions you can ask in each type of selling situation. When it’s time to meet the customer face-to-face, be prepared with a list of those questions. Include every single question you might ask of a prospect in order to make him/her aware of an overlooked need or buried dissatisfaction.

By asking specific questions of your prospect, you can determine whether the prospect doesn’t have a need for your product or buys the product from another supplier. If the customer doesn’t want your product, find out what she is currently doing so you can explain how your product can enhance her operations.

Often when a customer says “I don’t need this,” she may really mean “I don’t need this right now.” Your competition may have beaten you to the punch. If the customer isn’t locked into a long-term purchasing contract, you may still be able to set up a future sale. Unless you can come up with a way for the customer to move her current inventory, though, this is a tough sell.

If your prospect reveals displeasure with her current supplier or product, your presentation should emphasize how your product can meet and exceed their expectations. When prospects are shopping for an item with specific features or a stated price, remember that they are “shopping.” They may be flexible if you can capture their interest and extol the benefits of your offering.

Listen to your prospect’s wish list and then present the merits of your product. Your presentation should include the key features, benefits and prices. Don’t laud all the bells and whistles if the customer might perceive them as frivolous and get sidetracked. And unless a specific feature jumps out at you, determine the sequence of your presentation with the visible, tangible benefits up front.

Remember, you won’t lose a sale by asking too many questions or learning too much about a customer. Many customers are not conscious of their needs. Your questions will stimulate their awareness, qualifying them and hopefully, getting you the sale.

Roger DaughertyMentor, SCORE North Central Ohio
Roger has been a SCORE mentor for 25 years, helping numerous small businesses start and grow. His background includes manufacturing, sales, education. He is an active participant in local Chambers of Commerce, business workshops and networking groups.
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Discussion (2) Comment

  1. JacobusVisitor

    Qualifying the prospect is done by asking a lot of questions, you are right on that. However, it is also observing the obvious. We sell high ticket product and we also check the website of the company (is the website sort of decent and did they invest some time and money in it) and even check Google StreetView (believe it or not). Overall though you are right what asking tons of questions is the way to go and you’ll learn more from that than anything else. (And as you said, listening to them is another important factor.)

    • Roger DaughertyVisitor

      Hi Jacobus,
      Thank you for your comment. Asking questions is very important along with other concepts such as you have shared. I share with Score clients the concept if I don’t ask questions then how can we get you to were you want to be? Like you sometimes I Google to see where the people live and such to get an idea as to where they are coming from etc. Sometimes they don’t provide this info and from my standpoint I just want a bit more info as to who and what I am dealing with. After many years of mentoring small business owners it was found that one needs to ask serious questions sometimes to get to the root of the challenge. This needs to be done before the correnct solutions can be resolved. But I didn’t learn that in year one! Again thanks for your comment.


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