How to Screen Prospects
My consulting company, SiteLogic, has a steady stream of prospects that we have to work through. Since I’ve been in sales for over 30 years now, I find that one of the easiest ways to get good clients is to screen them before they become customers. The more time you spend in qualifying your leads and knowing the real motivations of the prospect, the better you can realize a true fit between them and your organization.
On the opposite side, there are those prospects that become clients and life is never the same. They become your most demanding, yet least satisfied client. They absorb more of your time than other clients, and simply cannot see the purpose of the advice and recommendations. They don’t follow things through, expect you to react to their needs immediately. For some reason, things just don’t work out on either side. Bad feelings are created early, and very rarely does a client like this end up being long-term or experience success.
Chances are, you have been one company in a long string of companies that has worked with this client, and none have been able to produce the results they want. And most people know that a bad client is rarely a profitable client.
I’ve been able to spot these type of prospects earlier and earlier in the process. The challenge is to simply follow the rule, what I call the “Yes, but” rule.
Here’s how it works: When presenting your agency, product, or system, if the prospect agrees and quickly disagrees with you. Easily identified by statements like:
- “OK, I like what you are saying, but my situation is completely unique…”
- “Yes, that’s good, but I’ve not had good experiences..”
- “Great, I like that, but here is where I differ…”
- “OK – I like that, but can I only do half?”
- “Yes, but can we start small and work up?”
- “Good, I like it, but if you give me a deal on this, I’ll give you more business”
- Yes, I understand why you quoted all of this, but I don’t have the budget, can I still get all of the services for less?”
Many such statements have a valid concern, which should be addressed. That’s why I need to keep a count of how many times it comes up in the conversation. Genuine objections are acceptable (and should be expected), but there is a major difference between a sales objection and a product-process objection. When it comes to your evaluation and diagnosis of a problem, and it is met with a “yes, but” and there is no resolution, then you do not have the right prospect for your business. If it comes up three or more times in the conversation, you can bet that it will be indicative of your future relationship with that prospect.
“Yes, but” is not Agreement
When a prospect makes these types of statements, they are not really agreeing with you – they are countering you. They are taking your statement explaining how your system or product works and countering it with their view of how it should work – for them. If this happens in the sales cycle, you can bet it will continue on into the client cycle. Ultimately, your recommendations will be met with objections, and very little will be accomplished.
We know the cycle. Advice is countered, recommendations are not followed, content is changed. What was supposed to be a process of helping that client in their area of need becomes the client instructing you. Usually, the client’s biggest need is the area they do not want to surrender, and nothing changes…. They came to you as the expert, but do not let you be the expert.
As I’ve noticed, this kind of behavior is spotted early in the process. They may ask for your help and acknowledge the deficiencies in their marketing, messaging, SEO, website, etc. But, listen carefully. Problem prospects will always admit the problem with a temporary agreement, but then follow up with a counter to your understanding of the situation or their unique issues.
Finding A Good Fit
Ultimately, we all want our relationships to work out mutually beneficial and profitable. However, there are those relationships which simply demand more of your time and provide little or no profit. Even worse, nothing is accomplished of any lasting value for that client. Either your recommendations have not been followed, or they have been dismissed. Either way, there is no profit on either side.
Spotting these types of relationships early can save time and money on both sides. Business people know that sometimes, overlooking a known issue just to get the sale usually results in a longer, less fruitful and unprofitable relationship. The payoff in getting the sale is not worth the frustration and lack of success in the long run.