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Effectively Qualifying a Prospect

Qualifying a prospect is one of the most important steps for a salesperson to take due to the fact that time is limited and one of our most valuable resources. Since time cannot be replaced and we cannot add more hours to the day or week, we must get as much out of the time that we have to work with. As result, to improve sales performance, we must find a way to increase our time spent with prospects that have a high probability of purchasing and decrease our time spent with those that don’t. Qualifying prospects is the key way to accomplish this

One way to approach qualifying prospects is to use a two-step process:

Step 1 – Soft Qualifying

It is most likely that you will begin talking to and working with a prospect at an early sales cycle stage where the lead is just being created. This could either be talking to a prospect over a cold call, at a networking event, call back from an inbound web lead, etc.

In these early stage conversations, you want to focus on qualifying a prospect by soft qualifying first. This refers to asking questions to primarily identify if it makes sense to keep talking or to meet at all. There are plenty of questions that we need to ask to thoroughly qualify, but at first we just need to identify if there is any potential at all for the prospect to fit with what we have to offer.

If there is not at least a slight potential for a fit identified early on, we may identify that it does not make sense for either party to spend valuable time talking and/or possibly meeting. If this point is reached while qualifying a prospect, this can be a good outcome as you can then move on to find a prospect that does have a potential need for what you are trying to sell.

The key areas to focus with soft qualifying are outlined below:

  • Current state: What are the current processes, systems, and vendors in the area that your products or services impact?
  • Level of satisfaction: How are things going? Good, OK, or could be better?
  • Organizational details: Is the prospect the right person for us to talk to?


Step 2 – Hard Qualifying

Once you progress through the sales cycle to a formal meeting, it is time to work on qualifying a prospect at a much deeper level and performing hard qualifying. If soft qualifying is to simply determine if it makes sense to keep talking, hard qualifying is determining if this is a real deal and there is a high potential to move forward.

To measure how qualified the prospect is and how high the probability is that they will purchase, you can ask questions in the following categories:

  • Need vs. want: What happens if you do nothing?
  • Funding: Has the budget for this project been approved?
  • Timing: Is there a date when you need the purchase made by?
  • Authority: What is the decision making process?


Launch Pad Solutions provides sales coaching helping sales pros with qualifying a prospect.


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This article was published on Sunday 08 April, 2012.
Back to main topic: Qualifying Prospects
Qualifying Business to Ensure Sales Effectiveness
Three Questions to Ask When Qualifying Sales
Questions to Ask When Qualifying Sales
Qualifying Sales with Light Questions First
Five Powerful Open Sales Questions
Using Open Ended Sales Questions to Increase Sales
Sales Call Questions that Can Generate Leads
Powerful Questions for Sales People (Part I)
Powerful Questions for Sales People (Part II)
How to Qualify a Prospect

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