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What’s the ideal prospect definition for a “qualified prospect?” How should companies determine which prospects are “qualified?” Here we answer these questions to help you and your team create the best practices in qualifying prospects. Read on to find out more.

RELATED: Climb The Trust Ladder To Increase Results In Prospecting

In this article:

  1. Are Your Prospects “the Right Thing?”
  2. The Difference Between Leads and Prospects
  3. Not Getting The Sales Prospect You Want | The Traditional Definition of a Qualified Prospect
  4. The Kind of Sales Prospect You Should Go For | Customizing Client’s Needs
  5. Why You’re Not Getting Your Ideal Customers When Sales Prospecting
    1. The Prospect Doesn’t Have Any Idea Who You Are
    2. You’re Not Consistent or Making Contact Frequently Enough
    3. You Might Not Be Narrowing down Your Ideal Prospect Enough
  6. How To Determine A Real Prospective Customer
    1. Make Sure You’re Targeting the Right Vertical/Market, to Begin With
    2. Have Concrete, Measurable Milestones That Indicate Progress Towards a Sale, and Ask the Prospect to Meet Them 
    3. Listen. Really Listen.
    4. Last but Not Least, Have the Courage to Walk Away
  7. Why It’s Important to Define Prospects That Are Qualified for You

Prospect Definition | Identifying A Qualified Customer

Are Your Prospects “the Right Thing?”

We’ve all heard of the “Curse of the Slow No,” or the “Slow No Death Spiral”— sales reps wasting time pursuing prospects they ultimately never had a chance of closing. Learn all about the qualified prospect — its definition as well as some strategies to determine if your sales prospects are “the right thing” here!

For the purposes of this article, let’s first define what precisely a prospect is.

Prospect Definition: A prospect is an individual or an organization that fits the profile of one’s ideal customer or client.

On that note, having access to a potential customer doesn’t mean they’re a qualified prospect. Knowing the difference can help you reduce the length of your sales cycle considerably.

People often mistake leads as prospects, so before anything else let’s differentiate the two.

The Difference Between Leads and Prospects

Although gathering leads and sales prospecting are both in the very beginning of the sales pipeline, it doesn’t mean the two are interchangeable.

First of all, gathering leads is the very first part of the sales funnel. You gather leads on various platforms: social media, social networking events, and more.

After you’ve gathered enough leads, then it’s time to begin prospecting.

If the lead fits your target audience, you can explore down the sales process with them further as a prospect.

Thus, leads are any client you haven’t prospected yet. On the other hand, prospects are the leads you’ve prospected to check if they fit your criteria of an ideal customer.

Knowing the difference between a lead and a prospect is just the first step. However, knowing doesn’t automatically mean you can get the sales prospect you want.

Not Getting The Sales Prospect You Want | The Traditional Definition of a Qualified Prospect

Anyone who’s spent any time in sales has likely had a phone call that went something like this: “Oh, well, it looks like the CFO already sent a check to Vendor X, so, um . . . sorry?”

The problem inexperienced reps often have is they got dumped long before the so-called “final decision”— they just didn’t recognize it.

Which got me thinking, “What is the real definition of a qualified prospect?”

A traditional definition might resemble something like, “A qualified prospect is someone who meets the minimum criteria for buying a product or service, and has expressed a minimum level of interest to do so.” Hardly earth-shattering, right?

RELATED: Email Prospecting vs. Cold Calling: What’s Best?

The Kind of Sales Prospect You Should Go For | Customizing Client’s Needs

realtor agent talking to young couple | Definition of a Qualified Prospect and the Curse of the “Slow No” | prospect definition | qualified definition

Finding qualified prospects and meeting their needs for great sales

But try this trick and see what happens: add the words “from us” to the end of the definition — “A qualified prospect is someone who meets the minimum criteria for buying a product or service, and has expressed a minimum level of interest to buy from us.”

The idea is that on the surface, a potential buyer may meet all of the boiler-plate elements of being a reliable client. However, if they don’t want to buy from you, it doesn’t matter how “qualified” they are.

Why You’re Not Getting Your Ideal Customers When Sales Prospecting

Sometimes, there are things sales professionals do when prospecting that’s affecting their results in getting qualified prospects. Here are three common reasons why sales prospecting might not be getting you the most qualified prospects:

1. The Prospect Doesn’t Have Any Idea Who You Are

Of course, if your prospect doesn’t have any idea who you are, then it’s futile. Even if you have what the prospects need, it doesn’t mean they’ll trust you immediately.

The lack of marketing presence of your brand may be the reason why your ideal prospects aren’t going for you. After all, trust is a big part of sales, especially in certain industries like medicine and finance.

2. You’re Not Consistent or Making Contact Frequently Enough

It can be hard to stand out from the noise. However, one way to do this is to be consistent and frequent in contacting and following up with your prospect.

Eventually, this will pay off and you’ll be more easily recognizable.

3. You Might Not Be Narrowing down Your Ideal Prospect Enough

If you’re casting too broad of a net, you’re going to be catching a lot of prospects that don’t fit your criteria. Thus, you have to make sure you’re a little more specific with your ideal prospect profile.

Have the right sort of expectation as well.

Make sure your target prospect is specific enough that your actions have something to focus on. However, it shouldn’t be too specific that you don’t have a big enough pool of leads to cast onto.

How To Determine A Real Prospective Customer

So how do you determine if the prospect is “the real thing,” or only using you as a sounding board?

1. Make Sure You’re Targeting the Right Vertical/Market, to Begin With

“Going with your gut” is rarely as effective as having hard, accurate data on what drives your sales success. In the past, we wasted a lot of time and energy pursuing target companies, and decision-makers that we later discovered were a reasonably poor fit for our value proposition.

2. Have Concrete, Measurable Milestones That Indicate Progress Towards a Sale, and Ask the Prospect to Meet Them

This doesn’t mean you have to shove an agenda down the prospect’s throat.

However, anyone serious about making a purchase from you will generally commit to doing something in exchange for your time. This is even if it’s small and incremental.

A prospect who rarely commits to concrete appointments should be a huge red flag.

3. Listen. Really Listen.

Do you really understand the prospect’s actual need? Pay particular attention to the prospect’s process for decision making. Company politics and culture are a real, active influence on how decisions are made in any organization.

Look for signals of what’s happening in the background. If you don’t, you may find yourself at a dead end.

4. Last but Not Least, Have the Courage to Walk Away

It takes guts to say to someone, “You know, I don’t think we’re really the right solution for you at this time.” However, sometimes it’s your best course of action.

Obviously, ask for their permission to add them to your company’s drip marketing list, and occasionally follow up with some targeted collateral or a phone call. But don’t waste inordinate amounts of energy in the process (get an automation tool to help).

As the saying goes, “When they’re ready, they’ll come to you, and if they don’t, they were never yours, to begin with.”

Why It’s Important to Define Prospects That Are Qualified for You

businessman pointing at documents | Definition of a Qualified Prospect and the Curse of the “Slow No” | prospect definition | prospect define

Defining qualified prospects for successful sales

There are several reasons why you’d want to define what an ideal prospect is for you, including:

  • Not doing so will waste time and effort. If you don’t set your perfect prospect, you’ll be looking to pitching to just about anyone, even those aren’t particularly interested in your products or services.
  • Both parties get bad deals out of the sale. Even if you’re successful in closing the transaction, you’re going to end up not giving the best solution to your prospect’s problems.
  • Sales reps will have a hard time selling. Since a sales rep’s goal is to provide the best solution, if they’re stuck pitching to an unqualified prospect, they ultimately won’t know how to sell to them at the end of the day.

Knowing about prospect definition and strategies to determine if they’re “the real thing” can help you hit and even exceed your sales target. By understanding how to identify a qualified customer, you’ll know when you need to fight hard for a prospective client and when to let go.

Do you have a different opinion on what a good prospect is? Share what you know about prospect definitions in the comments section below.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 16, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy. 

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