5-Minute Sales Coach: What Makes a Prospect “Great”?

Does the following scenario sound familiar?

You had what you thought was a GREAT sales call with a new prospect. The prospect says he can’t wait to receive your proposal. You quickly pull your team together to analyze the prospect’s requirements, identify the appropriate systems, determine costs, and estimate the time for development, installation, and implementation.

You complete the proposal in record time and schedule an appointment to present it to the prospect. During the presentation, the prospect hangs on to your every word. He promises to give the proposal his immediate attention and get back to you within the next few days.

Then weeks, maybe even months, go by, and all you hear from the prospect is silence. Your voice mails and emails go unanswered.

Why do some of those “great” opportunities end up going nowhere?

Truly great, or not so great? Use benchmarks.

When the opportunities you thought were so promising ultimately hit a dead end, it’s likely they were never really that great to begin with. You were just being too lenient in how you evaluated the prospect. Remember—develop benchmarks and measure every prospect against them so that you don’t waste your time and energy chasing a sale that will never take place.

So, what makes a prospect truly great? What should your benchmarks be? Here’s what to look for:

  • Great prospects are willing to engage in a meaningful conversation with you when you first contact them. You don’t have to chase them for weeks or send them literature before they’ll agree to talk with you.
  • Great prospects have expressed a desire to work with you and your company (rather than simply allowing you to submit a quote or proposal).
  • Great prospects recognize and acknowledge their need for your product or service. It’s not enough that a prospect has simply asked you for more information—your company’s website or marketing materials can satisfy that need. Until a prospect expresses in no uncertain terms that she has an unsolved problem or an unattained goal for which her company needs your product or service, don’t invest a lot of your time.
  • Great prospects are willing to share the information you need to determine if your product or service is a good fit with the company’s needs and the prospect’s expectations.
  • Great prospects plan to make a buying decision in a reasonable amount of time, and they have a reasonable process through which they’ll make the buying decision (i.e., there’s a limit to the number of hoops you’ll be expected to jump through to complete the sale).
  • Great prospects are willing and able to invest money, time, and effort in quantities that are in line with the product or service your company offers. In other words, make sure your product or service is a best-fit solution. If a prospect can’t make the investment required to accomplish the desired outcome, you have two options: help the prospect reshape his expectations to correspond with the investment he can make, or abandon the opportunity. Don’t be afraid to abandon an opportunity that’s not a good fit. Doing so is not only in your best interest—it’s in the best interest of the prospect.

Now, I’m not suggesting that if a prospect falls short on one or two of these benchmarks, you can’t close a sale. You can. But it will almost always take longer, require more work, and be at a lower profit margin.

A salesperson encounters many, many prospects over the course of a career. The sooner you learn to establish benchmarks and accurately judge the potential “greatness” of each prospect, the more efficient and effective you’ll be.

By Bill McCrary