Not every customer who walks in your door or visits your website is equal. Some are just browsing. Others are actively looking and have money in hand. So how do you tell them apart? The answer is to “qualify” them first. You’ll focus on those who are most likely to buy. And customers get what they need—so you’ll have fewer returns. Try posing these questions to help qualify your small business sales prospects.
To qualify a customer, determine if an individual is likely to buy from you. You might be able to tell from their behavior. Or ask a question that helps you take their buying temperature. You can also stay in your sweet spot by focusing your marketing efforts on people who fit your target. Here are factors to look for:
- Do they need your product or service? – Customers who responded to a mailing or an email you sent are more likely to need what you offer, or at least have strong interest. Another signal might be a customer who brings in a coupon you placed in the local newspaper. Questions like “What can I help you find?” can help you uncover a need. For example, a customer asking for a plunger might be a candidate for other plumbing supplies.
- Do they have the money to pay for it? – The ability to pay is a key to identifying a credible buyer. For example, a couple who is prequalified for a mortgage loan is a good prospect for a realtor who has a property for sale in that price range. You can also increase the chances that a customer has the right income by targeting certain income brackets when sending an email or flyer. If you sell larger ticket items, you can qualify leads using credit agencies.
- Do they have the authority to decide? – This is important if you market to other businesses. While some individuals in a company may influence the decision, there is usually one person who is authorized to buy. So talk to that individual. Even in family situations, some couples make decisions jointly; others might delegate the decision to the other. If you’re talking to the decision maker, you are more likely to get a buying decision.
- Is this the right time? – Customers are more likely to buy when the need is more immediate. For example, a couple expecting their first child is more likely to buy items for the baby’s room. So coupons or special offers distributed in a welcoming packet during a pre-natal class are more likely to attract customers whose need for your product is more urgent.
The more times you can answer “yes” to these questions, the more effort you should devote to that customer. But be careful not to dismiss a customer who doesn’t respond affirmatively today. They may be a prospect tomorrow so include them in your ongoing communication, perhaps on your Facebook page.