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How to Pre-Qualify a Sales Lead in 5 Steps

Originally published: 10.01.10 by Geoffrey James

Ask questions, match prospects, and provide feedback.

Got a long list of prospects and don’t know where to start? Your challenge is to focus time and energy on the prospects who are the most likely to buy, according to sales guru Brian Tracy. To do that, you must pre-qualify your sales leads before you call them. Here’s how:

1. Visualize your target. Ask yourself the following questions: What is the specific benefit or improvement of my customers’ lives that will occur as the result of them using my product? How will they feel differently because they are using it? Who is most likely to experience these positive feelings? What are their income, position, experience, and level of authority? Your goal for this step is to determine your ideal customer based on these questions.

2. Identify your strengths. Ask yourself the following questions: What is it that we do better than any other company? Why should our ideal customer buy from us rather than the competition? If our competitors were asked (and answered honestly) what would they say that our company does better than anyone else? Your goal for this step is to determine what’s unique about your company’s offer, so that you can match those characteristics more closely to the expectations of potential customers.

3. Match strengths and targets. Ask yourself the following question: Who, specifically, are

the customers who would value and appreciate what our offering does better than our competitor’s offering? Your goal for this step is to determine the specific types of customer who are the best match for your offering. This is a process of elimination, not inclusion! You want to pick your shots, so think like a sniper rather than a machine gunner.

4. Concentrate your sales efforts. Focus on those few customers who can benefit the most from your company’s offering. Your ideal customer should want your product, need your offering, be able to use your offering, and afford your offering. Making sales calls with customers who don’t fit the profile you’ve created will probably be a waste of your valuable time.

5. Provide feedback to marketing. If you’re still getting long lists of undifferentiated leads, you need to help your marketing team (or whomever is passing you those leads) to better focus their lead-generation efforts. Your goal in this step is to make the four-step process above more automatic, so that you don’t have to spend your own time eliminating unlikely prospects.

Geoffrey James is the author of several books, hundreds of business articles, and currently writes the Sales Machine blog on CBS Interactive’s BNET website.

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