A Dirt-Simple System for Qualifying Sales Prospects

How to find a good sales prospectIt is easy to fall into the habit of believing that everyone is a potential client. Some business owners will even say that they want to obtain ALL of the business out there … that everyone is a prospective client. This is a dangerous mindset.

Business growth isn’t about selling to everyone; it is about selling to every right one — that is, everyone who is a “qualified” prospect. 

When you try to sell to everyone your efforts are too broad. You aren’t focused and you soon are faced with failures, because you are wasting time trying to sell something without understanding the value in other people’s eyes – or even whether they are truly a good fit for your product or service.  In short, you aren’t qualifying companies/individuals in the field. 

Qualifying — that is, effective prospecting and information gathering — leads you to the clients you should have. 

Qualifying prospects includes 4 steps:

1. Understand the real value of your product or service. Whatever you’re selling, whatever “it” is, it IS a thing. Even if you’re a service provider and don’t have a product per se, know exactly what you’re selling and think of it as a product.  That’s the first step.

Now, why do people/companies need it? What does it do for them? How does it help them? Be specific.

  • Example:  You are not just a consultant selling an hour’s worth of time. Rather, you are a sales coach selling a program designed to help people create a strategy to increase their client base and their annual sales.

2. Understand WHO needs or wants it. This is easier to answer once you know the answers to the first point. Once you know the true value (or benefit) you’ll have a better idea of who to target.

  • Example: Now that you understand the value of your service you realize that small business owners who have no previous sales experience are the people who truly need your program.

3. Define your target market.  Now that you have a good idea of who and what, you can create an effective system for targeting those prospects.

Target marketing is following a specific structured process focused on a particular group of prospects. To be effective you have to narrow the field of prospective clients. Select a segment of your market to focus on first.

  • Example: From step 1, you now know the value of your sales coaching program. From step 2, you realize that the group that needs it is small business owners who have no previous sales experience. Therefore, looking at that pool of prospects you determine that IT professionals are a good target segment because, while they possess excellent computer and web skills, they often lack effective sales skills. 

4. Have a clear vision of your ideal client.  You still have to break it down further.  This includes asking yourself questions such as:  What’s their ability to make the decision to buy, as well as their ability to pay for your product?  Where are they geographically? What is the ROI?  In other words, is the time you will spend with them equal to or less than the revenue you will realize?

  • Example: After thinking it through further you determine that your prospective target market consists of those IT professionals who have been in business for at least 2 years, are within a 75 mile radius from your office, and have annual revenues of $500,000 or more. 

These four points are important to know before you start your sales and marketing. Having this knowledge when you approach the actual sales process will help you qualify the prospects even better.

Look at it this way:

  • You know who you prefer to work with (ideal client)
  • You know who needs your product or service
  • When you target market and get in front of those who need it, you can further qualify them based on who you prefer to work with; thus, further narrowing the field.

This is where information gathering comes in. You’ve defined the field and are marketing to them. Ask all the questions you need to ask to make sure that they truly need what you offer, and they fit your ideal client mold. 

When those two areas are met, you can SELL. Selling, in this scenario is really information giving.  You’ve narrowed the field and are now in front of a truly qualified prospect. It is time to offer the information you have — how your product or service meets their needs, the cost, the process — the details. 

You are fitting the pieces of the puzzle together for the prospect. They should see the benefits clearly because you’ve done your job leading up to this point.

You haven’t wasted your time or theirs. 

This is why qualifying is so very important. It helps you stay on task and use your time wisely. When you do your work from the beginning you avoid spending time with people who are never going to become clients. You will feel less frustration, because you’ll close more sales from true qualified prospects, than you will from randomly approaching the world at large.

Create your sales plan around the notion that you want to gain every Right One and you will be ahead of the game – and the competition.

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Diane HelbigAbout the Author: Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day Coaching. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Sales Experts Panel at Top Sales Experts.


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

12 Reactions
  1. We identified that our target market was just 20,000 (within a 100 mile radius) not the millions we originally thought. As soon as we focused on this smaller group our sales close ratio tripled. We also saved money on advertising and direct mail we didn’t need.

  2. Diane,
    Thank you for making your article dirt simple. It really helped!
    The Franchise King

  3. I doubt that most small businesses (especially if the CEO is the primary salesperson) take the time to think through who their target market is. My observation: there’s a lot of misdirected or undirected effort toward marketing and sales. No wonder it’s frustrating.

  4. Great advice! I think that John Jantsch pointed out this issue very well in his book, Duct Tape Marketing.

  5. This are very simple steps but can be easily overlooked. Knowing the value in your product helps you relay confidence to your prospective buyers also.

  6. You are so right.

    We tried the “counting down the “no’s”” method…approaching everyone and just moving down the line as they turned us down.

    Now we plot and target like snipers.