The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Qualification

You made it through the first meeting with the
prospect, rapport was established and he/she liked you enough to allow you to
come back and continue the sales process. And you enjoyed the prospect enough
to want to pursue the business. Now it’s time to determine if you can do
business with the prospect. By that I mean, after you do your fact finding, you
have to honestly assess whether or not what you have to offer can help him/her.

On the flip side, you also want to figure out
whether or not you want to pursue the prospect any further because not all
business is good business. If you get sense that prospects’ demands will be
more than you want to take on, or if you begin to get the feeling you might not
like working with them, this is the time to politely back out of the process.
Better to not take on a customer than to have to end up “firing” him/her.
As you qualify the prospect through a series
of well-planned questions the principle of consistency becomes very important. During
the follow up meetings after the initial contact, you want to ask LOTS of
questions. A rule of thumb is that a good salesperson should talk no more than
25%-30% of the time. That might be contrary to what you’ve experienced with
salespeople in the past because a misperception about salespeople is they have
to have “the gift of gab” to talk people into anything. Nothing could be
further from the truth! Excellent salespeople talk so little because they ask
good questions that allow the prospect to do most of the talking. Excellent
salespeople are also good listeners because it doesn’t do any good to ask the
right questions if they don’t care about the answers.
Here are some benefits of asking good
  1. They allow the prospect to feel in control of
    the situation.
  2. They help you gather information so you can
    understand the prospect’s needs.
  3. They will let you know whether or not you
    should go forward. If you can’t meet the prospect’s needs or requirements then be
    honest, remove yourself from the sales process and go work with prospects you can
  4. They help you tailor your presentation or
  5. You will be able to tie back what you
    ultimately propose to what the prospect told you in earlier meetings. This is where
    consistency becomes a powerful principle to leverage the sale.


One more point about questions. Whether you
win or lose an account, you should always try to understand why. Replicate your
winning behaviors and change whatever led to you not making the sale. When you
lose, you need to see if there’s a question or two you can add to your qualification
process to avoid that from happening again. For example, if you find out the
prospect’s brother-in-law works for the company the prospect is currently doing
business with then add a question in your qualification process to uncover that
next time. Refining your questions over time will make you more efficient and
Last, consider scarcity as you go through the
qualification phase. People naturally want more of what they don’t have, can’t
have or perceive as going away. By asking the right questions you can start to
highlight what prospects might be missing currently and they’ll want it more.
An example from insurance might be the following:

Agent – “If you’re like most customers I work
with you probably want to make sure your building is fully covered in the event
of a total loss, correct?”

Prospect – “Of course. I can’t get stuck
paying tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket if the building burns or a
tornado takes it down. That’s why I buy insurance.”

Agent – “How about your employees? If your
business was shut down for six months or longer would you want them to come
back when you reopen?

Prospect – “Sure. Without them I have no

Agent – “I thought so but right now you don’t have business income coverage. If
you can’t pay them while the rebuilding is going on they’ll end up looking for
other jobs so they can pay their bills and feed their families. Should I include this coverage in your

Prospect – “I never thought about that. I
couldn’t afford to hire new people, retrain them and do all the other stuff you
have to do with new employees. Yea, include it so we can see what it will cost.”

Tom Hopkins, a well-know sales trainer and
author regularly tells audiences, “If you say it, they doubt it. When they say
it, they believe it.” Telling prospects what they need is never as effective as
them seeing the need themselves and verbalizing it. This comes about more
easily when you know you product or service and ask the right questions.
Next week we’ll delve into the presentation or
demonstration with a prospect looking to leverage certain principles of
influence that will help that go smoothly.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


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