We’re all too familiar with the frustration that occurs during sales calls when prospects will never, ever make a decision.
Sales training guru Paul Cherry recommends a simple but effective technique for qualifying legitimate prospects: the Agree/Clarify/Legitimize method. This three-step approach could save you considerable time and annoyance.
Example #1: The prospect says, “Send me more information.”
Conventional wisdom tags this response as a guaranteed blow-off. But we all know that plenty of good sales often begin here as well.
The only way to discover whether this is a good sales opportunity or not is to continue questions. Here’s how the model works:
AGREE: “I’d be glad to send you more information.”
CLARIFY: “So that I get you the right information, what specifically are you looking for?” If the prospect answers using action words like, “We’re looking to achieve A, fix B, solve C, avoid D, or improve E,” there’s a good chance this is a genuine sales opportunity.
However, if the prospect says: “Send me whatever you have” you’re probably not seeing a real sales opportunity. Chances are, it’s time to move on.
LEGITIMIZE: Project the prospect into the future so that she can walk you through the decision-making process. For example, say, “You’ll receive the information by Monday. Assuming you’ll need some time to look it over, when should I call back?”
Once a time frame is established, you ask, “Assuming you’ve reviewed the information and like what you see, what do you feel would happen next?” The prospect’s answer will give you a clear sense of whether the opportunity is worth investing in.
Example #2: The prospect says, “I need to talk it over with _____.”
AGREE: “Of course. I’m happy to hear you’re taking that step. When would be a good time for me to follow up with you?”
CLARIFY: “Is this something you’re willing to recommend to ________?” If the answer is anything less than an enthusiastic “yes,” you need to decide if this prospect is the correct individual to represent you within the company. Try to understand any objections or hesitations. Suggest a joint meeting.
LEGITIMIZE: “Assume for a minute that you’re meeting with your boss (board, team leader, etc.). What will you be sharing with him?” Be careful how you ask these questions. The idea is not to pressure the prospect, but to get a feel for how the sales interaction is going. For example, you might preface your questions: “Just so I can be sure I’ve given you everything you need, let me ask you…”
Example #3. The prospect says, “Call me back in three months.”
AGREE: Make sure that you agree to set a specific time for your return call. This increases the odds that you’ll actually reach the person when you call.
CLARIFY and LEGITIMIZE: You can often combine these two steps into one. Say: “So that I can be prepared for my next call to you, can you tell me what will be occurring between now and then?” In other words, find out why the sales prospect thinks the discussion will be more relevant in three months as opposed to today.
If she can’t give you a good answer – or won’t commit to a specific time for the call – chances are she’s simply putting you off. Again, a fence-sitter. Time to concentrate your efforts on a legitimate sales prospect.
Source: To learn more from Paul Cherry, visit www. pbresults.com
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