Qualifying Sales Prospects
You need to separate the suspects from the prospects to make the best use of your time and resources.
By Denise L. Rondini, Executive Editor
No matter how successful you are at truck sales, your continued success depends in part on finding potential new customers. Finding qualified prospects is the key, although it can be time consuming. However, failure to qualify leads will result in frustration, and more importantly, will not result in sales.
There are a number of ways to find potential customers, including customer referrals, your current customers’ competitors, direct marketing, advertising, etc.
While you will want to begin with a comprehensive list, remember the goal is not to have lots of sales “suspects,” but rather to find genuine buying prospects who you then can qualify.
A qualified prospect is one who actually needs your product and needs it in the not-too- distant future. To facilitate the sales process, make sure you can describe in detail who your ideal prospects are. Remember a prospect must need your product, be able to pay for it and have the authority to make a purchase.
Once you have a list of companies that are in your market area, obtain vehicle registration data, which can tell you the age of equipment in operation in your market area.
Don’t necessarily focus on the companies with the most vehicles; they may be part of a national accounts program where purchasing decisions are made at corporate headquarters and not at the office in your area. Look at companies with older vehicles who might be in the market for a vehicle in the next six months.
Do some research on the companies that look the most promising. If possible, find out how many trucks they own, how they like those trucks equipped, their normal trade cycle, etc.
Make sure you understand the prospect’s needs. You want to be able to provide him to a solution to his transportation problems. The more you know about him and his operation, the more likely you are to come with a solution that matches his needs.
When you call for an appointment, be clear about the purpose of your visit. Hopefully this will get you directed to the person who actually has decision-making authority. But be advised, you may end up having an appointment with a gatekeeper who is not the ultimate decision maker.
At the first meeting, gently probe to determine if the person you are speaking with is the sole decision maker or if others will be involved in the process. You can ask a question such as, “If I can spec a truck for you that meets your needs, what will be the next step?” Or, “If I can get you a truck that meets your needs, will you be able to make the purchasing decision?” This may help ferret out the real decision maker.
But be careful not to alienate the person you are speaking with because although they may not have the final say so, they can have a significant impact on the decision making process or they can block your access to the actual decision maker.
Fairly early in the sales process you will need to assess the ability of your prospect to pay for a vehicle. If you fail to do this you may end up wasting a great deal of time calling on someone who either can’t pay or does not currently have the budget to make a purchase. Ask about the time frame of the purchase. If they are not planning to purchase for another 18 months, you are better off spending time with prospects whose purchase date is more imminent.
This is all part of a system you should have in place to rate prospects’ ability and willingness to make a purchase now. Set up a system that identifies prospects as A, B, C, etc. Focus your sales efforts on the A prospects first and be prepared to change your rating, up or down, based on new information.
Ultimately if you fail to qualify your prospects you will have wasted your time and energy and likely have missed a real sales opportunity.