Nearly 80% of leads never turn into a sale – that’s according to MarketingSherpa.
That's a huge number of leads you have to filter through – and a huge amount of time spent on people who will never buy.
So how do you qualify those leads quickly and efficiently?
There's no time for long-winded rapport questions. You want to get into the deep part fast. But you don't want completely to eradicate an introduction – so it's important that you set the stage correctly.
And you want to set it up such that the prospect is on the stage, not you. Most salespeople want to do a song and dance to impress the prospect so that they'll buy.
It's much more powerful to position yourself as the one making the decision – you're trying to qualify them, not convince them to buy from you.
An example line you can use: "What we're going to do on this call is find out a little more about you and find out if or how I can help you. If not, I'll be the first to tell you that and I will help point you in the right direction. If I can help, then we'll talk about the next steps. We're going to move quickly, so let us keep our discussion sharp and concise. Is that ok?"
What you want to delve into first is how they found out about you, and why they're approaching you at this stage. This gives you context for how to approach them.
Context is important – if they've come to you as a referral, you know they've had a bit of priming. If they've seen a fleeting Facebook ad from you, you know that they may not know a whole lot about what you do yet.
An example line you can use: "Can I quickly ask you, where did you hear about me? And why have you decided to approach me at this point?"
This one depends on who your audience is, but the basic idea is that you want to get a top-level summary of what they do/who they are. The idea here is to find out if they match your target niche.
The danger at this point is that your prospect could end up rambling about themselves for a long time. The way to mitigate that is to give them a time limit, and ask them two questions, not just one. When you ask two questions, your prospect is likely to want to finish their answers quicker.
An example line you can use (for B2B): "In 30 seconds, tell me what it is your business does. Who do you help, and what is the problem that you solve?"
Here you want to figure out exactly where your prospect is right now, and where it is they eventually want to be.
What this also does is bring to the front of their mind their ultimate goals, and puts you in a perfect position to explain to them the bridge that can get them there. You will do this towards the end of the call.
An example line you can use (again, for B2B): "As a bit of a personal question, can I just ask you, what was your [key metric] figure for last month? What do you want that to be eventually?"
Now that you've shown them that they're not where they want to be, you need to help them clarify exactly why it is they're unable to get there. Here you're trying to understand the issues preventing them from getting to their goal.
The beauty of this is that you're asking them about it, rather than trying to guess. By pulling this information out of them, you're not only learning about their very specific problems, but you're also able to immediately position yourself as the solution to this problem – so they will then credit with you taking them across the bridge that you just showed them they want to cross.
An example line you can use: "So what do you think is missing right now?" (You can keep this one really simple!)
If you've gotten this far, then your prospect will have some sort of expectations of you. You have to know what they're expecting to get out of you before you can decide if you can help them.
If they're expecting you to walk on water, then they're probably not going to qualify. However, if they're expecting something you are likely to be able to offer, that will make it very easy to pitch to them at the end of the call.
An example line you can use: "So what do you need from me?" (Again, you can keep this very simple.)
Sometimes you're going to have prospects that will definitely need your services – but only once they go through steps A, B and C first. Alternatively, what you're offering is useful to them, but it's just not important right now.
If the problem isn't immediate, it's going to be a tough sell and they probably aren't going to buy. A qualified lead is someone who needs what you have to offer as a priority.
An example line you can use: "Is this a later thing for you, or a sooner thing?" (Note: you want to start with mentioning "later" – it will ensure that you pull out those who really find it an immediate thing and aren't just going with it because you suggested it was an immediate thing.)
Now's the time for you to earn their trust and respect. If you've been listening carefully to them and taking notes, you should now be able to feed back to them exactly what it is they desire, and what it is that's preventing them from getting there.
If you can articulate their problems and desires better than they can, they'll immediately associate the solution with you.
An example line you can use: "Based on everything you have told me, I think I can say that you ultimately want [the things they want]. However, it seems like [the problems] are what's holding you back.”
The last minute is for you to close off the conversation. By now you should have a clear idea of whether they are qualified or not.
If they're qualified, you'll want to explain to them what the next step is in your sales funnel.
If you've realised that they're not right for you, then you politely let them know that they're not a good fit. If you know another business or person that might be able to help them, refer them onwards – you'll earn a lot of goodwill from both parties.
An example line you can use (qualified): "I said at the start that I was going to figure out if I could help you or not. I have some good news – your issues are exactly what I'm equipped to deal with. Our next step is [your next step, another call maybe or a face to face meeting] and there you will be able to [the benefits of that next step, such as be able to figure out the best solution from our selection of products for XXX problem.]
And another example line you can use (non-qualified): "I said at the start that I was going to figure out if I could help you or not. Unfortunately, I don't think we're quite the right fit because of [your reasons]. However, I know of [friend/another business] who actually is much more likely to be able to help you, do you want me to tell them about you?"
And there you have it, in just 10 minutes you've quickly established whether your lead is likely to convert (and primed them for that) or not.