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Recognising Prospect from Suspect in Selling

By Percy Chong, 17th August 2014

There is nothing more painful in selling then chasing an illusion. All the wishing, hoping, praying…together with the many hours spend on the case will amount to nothing, if you are dealing with a “suspect”. Imagine all the resources going to waste, and what’s even worse, the disappointment of an unrequited effort can sometimes break even the strongest of sales person.

Essentially, the prospect needs to be “qualified”, before you should start pursuing him aggressively.  Only when you have an indication of possibility of a business case, should you consider investing your time and effort to making the sale happen.

So, who is a prospect and can he be identified over a suspect?

Let us start with identifying the characteristics of a prospect. Prospect are:
  1. Reasonable;
  2. People who “buy you” or have affinity with you;
  3. Decision maker;
  4. Responsible, or responsibility towards someone/something;
  5. People with buying ability, and/or buying readiness.
1)      Reasonable

For a prospect to buy anything from you, they usually need to be reasonable. No amount of convincing can move or change the mind of a “prospect” that is unreasonable. Face with even the best of benefits (that most reasonable consumer would agree), an unreasonable “prospect” will likely refute and make claims that are unsubstantiated and absolutely impossible to overcome.
Such prospects falls under the category of the suspect; not worthy of investment of too much time. And if and when they do buy anything, it will be on their own terms. You will have little or no case control, and you would do well with following-up with them in a distant, and should any sale emerges, it will be a bonus.

2)      People who “buy you” or have affinity with you

The first things you need to understand is that people who “buy you” is not necessary reasonable prospect; characterise by the fact that even your best of friends with great affinity, are capable of being unreasonable when consulting with you. However, you are still advice to locate individuals who are both reasonable and “buy you” to really advance your business case.

What is means is that a person that has connected very well with you or has special affinity with you, sometimes may give off the “wrong” signal that he is a prospect, or that he is willing to buy from you. Liking you and being able to “click” with you does not automatically qualify the individual as a prospect. Because there are other conditions that need to be met before a sale can happen. These conditions will be discussed in later points (ie. Decision maker, responsibility, buying ability/readiness etc).

Essentially, the sale will not progress smoothly unless the prospect likes or have affinity with you. It will be challenging to follow-up, let alone to sell an individual who does not even like you or thinks little of you. So the consideration for affinity is very important in prospecting. It is crucial to balance between qualifying the prospect’s liking for you, as well as the other characteristics that will combine together to qualify him.

3)      Decision maker

This is perhaps the most easily recognisable characteristic. No sale can happen unless you are dealing with the decision maker. Most sales person would have experience connecting well with a reasonable prospect only to find that he or she is not the decision maker; and the entire selling opportunity would have been lost.

It is again important to identify the decision maker early in the selling process to avoid spending unnecessary time chasing an illusion. Well placed questions may guide you to identify if the prospect is the decision maker or, who, the real decision maker might be. Divert your attention to the real decision maker and work on connecting with him to establish rapport and affinity. [Example: Do you consult with anyone before making any buying decisions? Who is responsible making the final decision to go ahead with this purchase, should it happen?]

4)      Responsible or responsibilities towards someone/something

This is an often overlooked or forgotten characteristic of a prospect.

The motive of the purchase is usually driven by the desire to be better off. This motivation for the betterment of self-interest can only take shape if the prospect is interested in being elevated to a better position in the first place. Hence, an irresponsible individual or someone who is not responsible for anyone’s interest would not qualify to be a prospect. They can be recognised by their devil may care attitude.

To begin with, a “prospect” who is irresponsible, wouldn’t even bat an eyelid with not showing up for any pre-arranged appointments. “No-shows” for appointment s are often the result of meeting with “prospect” who are lack in the basic values of responsibility. So, the well placed questions can also serve to uncover their responsible traits. [Example: Who or what are you responsible to? And how serious are you with keeping to your responsibilities?]

5)      People with buying ability and /or buying readiness

No other quality is more poignant than the buying ability or readiness. Nothing happens unless the prospect has the budget to buy your products and services. Look beyond the prospect’s reasonableness, chemistry with you, his decision making quality and responsible traits, the sale ultimately rest in the ability of the prospect to pay.

Again, asking well placed questions may help you identify the buying ability and/or readiness of the prospect. [Example: Assuming you found our products and services suitable, how ready are you to commit? Under what situation would you not be able or are able to commit to this purchase?]

In summary, all 5 characteristics need to be view in totality. The qualities or traits means little on its own, in fact it may give rise to a distorted picture and encourage follow-up with a “suspect” instead. Practice and exercise your judgment when qualifying your prospect and you will soon be a more efficient and effective sales champion.
Article contributed by Percy Chong (through Asian Sales Guru)
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