Don’t just qualify, disqualify sales leads too. Quit flogging a dead horse. It’s a waste of your limited time, it frustrates an already trying role (continual prospecting) and speaks more about you than the suspect.  Yes, suspect. He can’t be a prospect. Whereas both are sales leads, prospects not only have a need for your product, they can also afford it. Anyone outside this realm is a suspect and should be quickly disqualified from further pursuits.

Qualifying prospects definition and example

So, what does it mean, to qualify prospects? Well, first, good salespeople, use a sales funnel. Successful ones use it ruthlessly; they quickly distil and focus only on what can go through. Incidentally, this prospecting and qualifying is the beginning of effective sales pipeline management and includes measuring performance all the way to closing, or quitting. Yes, not all prospects will buy, and somewhere along the pipeline some will fall off, and that’s OK; just know when to quit following them up and focus on keeping on improving your closing ratio.

Pre-disqualification

So, anyway, back to qualifying at inception. You see, the mouth of the sales funnel does not select whom it attracts. Yes, you can (as you should) refine your marketing efforts (using your prospect qualification checklist) to attract prospects alone. But it’s rarely a science. You will still have witches and boda boda riders apply for the Kenya Airways (KQ) pilots job vacancy position following the ongoing strike, simply because they can, respectively, fly on a broom and ride a bike!

For instance, a client engaged us to recruit for them an Account Executive. That’s a sales role in case you are wondering; even the job ad we designed smacked of sales through and through; it even explicitly said, ‘this is a sales role’. Yet somehow, accountants and bankers still applied.  So by all means cast wide your net, which represents your qualified prospects criteria; but know this: it will not catch only the fish you want. With time, however, you will refine the process to having a fairly accurate idea of the characteristics of your qualified prospect. Your buyer persona. That way you can easily pre-disqualify with no need for say, a sales call. This pre-disqualification is a rate worth measuring and an ideal worth pursuing.

How to qualify a sales lead or opportunity

How you qualify your sales lead is dependent on what you sell.  For some, lead qualification is easier than others, but for all it’s not an absolute science. For example, it was easy for us, as recruiters, to pre-disqualify the accountants and bankers without even engaging them; equally, for a favourable pre-disqualification rate, if you are selling check-off loans for civil servants you know to focus your prospecting efforts around government offices or public schools; log book loans sales people are likely to be seen hanging around parking lots and those selling lifts, construction sites.

However, as I said, even after catching them, not all your seemingly ideal fish will be edible. So, you disqualify again from initial contact or interview. Say you are selling a bank account for the salaried, upwardly mobile urbanite. The process of qualifying a sales prospect may involve engaging him via email or a sales call; and preferably through asking important qualifying questions early enough; after exchanging niceties.

disqualify sales leads

For instance, “This account is for those earning a gross salary of at least Kes. 80,000. Would this be you?”  If the lead earns 40,000shs, he’s instantly a suspect; quit flogging a dead horse; politely disqualify that lead. “Thank you for your interest in our Up and Up account. Unfortunately, you do not qualify for it. I’m sorry. Thanks for your time.” You can stop there. Or you can add: “We have included you in our database to notify you of other accounts we are creating and may be a good fit for you.” Or, you can cross-sell. “All is not lost though; we have this other account that you can benefit from; and, as things always change, you can soon grow into this other one. Let me explain…”

Why do salespeople struggle to disqualify sales leads?

As glaringly suspect as some sales leads are, far too many salespeople will keep insisting on selling to them. This is because of several reasons foremost of which is idleness. The seller has no other leads to follow. As I’ve said before, if you don’t prospect you die; and no member of staff is more toxic than a salesperson with no prospect to see. When the sales funnel has nothing flowing in, and the pressure from the sales manager is growing, and being fired is imminent, the default setting of the culpable sales person is to keep a (dead) sales lead in his report indefinitely. He will have comments like these against the lead: “Called, did not respond”; “”Emailed twice last week” ; “To get back to me” ;“Said is thinking about it,” and such other vague updates.

Other challenges to disqualify sales leads

Another reason is because they are in denial that all products (even theirs), have limitations. No product is a panacea. Yet another reason, closely related to this one, I witnessed in a sales training I facilitated last month. The salesperson in a moving company, a really nice guy, couldn’t bring himself to agree that residents in particular areas in Nairobi cannot move with, as simply can’t afford, them. Even the data overwhelmingly proved so. “No”, he defended them.  “It’s segregating them. We should keep talking to them and try and see what to do for them.”

Because of his overly sympathetic personality, he struggled to let go; to just say no. Unfortunately for all these hapless salespeople, the chickens always come home to roost. They (the salespeople, not the chicken) waste time that could have otherwise been more productively spent chasing actual leads; they (quite unfortunately) like a false prophet, lead the prospect on with false hope; ultimately (and inevitably), their wanting sales performance is screaming.  

Advantages of prospect disqualification

Besides the reasons already mentioned, having the courage to disqualify leads is important because the lead could just be leading you on. Why? Because he enjoys this; or, like you, he struggles to say no. Another reason is because he is seeking to fill his quota of quotes or proposals for Procurement and you’ve never let him down 7 times in a row now; or, he is just using you to seek out information.

Learn to disqualify sales leads early. Can today’s suspect become tomorrow’s prospect? Absolutely, yes! That’s why successful sales people always move with their database.


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