Of all the things we are supposed to do when selling,
the one that most often gets forgotten is qualifying the buyer. Miss
this step and you can waste a whole lot of time and effort selling to
someone who doesn't have the power to make a decision. Worse still you
may get a "No" from someone who can't give you a
"Yes" - and if that happens it is very hard to recover the
Who's Who in
the Buying Scenario?
These are people that might
call you to find out more information, or they could be the person you
first speak to when you call, or visit a prospect.
Initiators are also often
influencers, but not always. Anyone that is involved in the
decision-making process, even at armís length is an influencer, ignore
them at your peril even if they occupy a very junior position.
Now, buyers are interesting
because they may not actually make the buying decision. Take for
instance a not-for-profit organization; you may deal with the Executive
Director during every step of the sales process, but he or she may have
to take the proposal to their board for a final decision. In this case
you are relying on the Executive Director to make the actual sale,
unless you can get to present to the board yourself.
Most often, the decision-maker
is also the buyer, but as mentioned above this is not always the case
so be careful. Qualifying the buyer, should really be qualifying the
If you are selling anything that
will be used by third parties, these users can become influencers, so
you should consider them when planning your sales process. For
instance, if possible you might want to get their feedback prior to
making your pitch to the buyer, or even before you design and produce,
or develop, the product or service you are selling.
At some point in the future
someone might assess whether what you sold them worked well and was
cost effective. This could be a board of directors, a supervisor,
foreman or manager. Once again, these people will be influencers with
regard to future sales. As with users, it would be worthwhile
soliciting input from evaluators prior to pitching the target company.
As an exercise, identify these
people and their roles in some of your major customer's companies, and
then more importantly identify them in those companies you would like
to sell to.
How to Qualify
You can, of course, simply ask.
Be open about it and ask your first contact how the company makes its
The front desk person can often
tell you a whole lot about a company, so it is advisable to make sure you
are on good terms with them. It's a simple matter to ask, "Does
Mr. Smith do the buying for your company?" or "What is Mr.
Smith's role at Benning Brothers?"
When talking to your prospect
encourage them to talk about their team. The more you know about the
structure of the team the more you will know about who makes the
For instance, ask, "Is
there anyone else you work with that needs to see this
information?" or "Do you need to bounce this project,
product, service, situation off anyone else before making a
Once you know your prospect is
interested, ask whether you could have the opportunity of meeting with
the CEO, or even make a presentation to the board if you suspect they
will be integral to making the decision to purchase. The answer to this
will tell you a lot about who makes the decisions.
Buyer When You First Meet
We often meet prospects at
networking events, heck that's why we attend isn't it? But often we
waste time just chatting, and hoping the conversation will get around
to the business we are in and discovering whether the person we are
talking to could be in a position to buy what we have to sell. So,
let's look at speeding this process up a little.
First, create a 15-30 second
advertising pitch for yourself, or your business, that answers the
question most people inevitably ask at these events, "What do you
If you are a corporate trainer,
you might answer "I'm in training" but would that help you
qualify the buyer? No.
How about? "My company
provides innovative team-building activities and other unique training
which increases revenue and productivity for companies just like
Is this a better answer? Yes
it's better, in that it will pique the interest of who you are talking
to. But, is it enough? Not really. You now need to qualify this
potential customer with questions such as:
"How many staff do you
"Do you believe training
is an important part of staff development?"
"Do you have a training
"Do you develop training
in-house or do you look for suitable training programs from outside
"How do you currently
spend your training budget?" or "What do currently spend your
training budget on?"
"Do you think a training
budget is a good idea for a company to help ensure that their staff
spends some time on personal development?"
Create around 20 questions like
this, which you are prepared to ask depending on the circumstances.
The idea of these questions is
to qualify whether this person's company is one you might do business with,
so think about what you need to know.
How can you make yourself stand
out from your competition by asking these questions and move the
potential sale to the next stage in the sales process?
Show the prospect what you can
do for them by saying something like, "I'm sure I can help you. My
company has a variety of highly innovative off-the-shelf training
programs, and we can also cost-effectively design programs to answer
your specific needs. We have trained over 850 businesses in the city
and thousands across the country. Our programs are fun, interactive and
above all else result in increased sales for your company. Why don't we
meet for coffee, next week, or perhaps meeting at your office might be
better? I could make Monday, or Wednesday morning or any afternoon next
week." Then shut up, and wait for them to choose which meeting
venue and time works best for them.
Qualify The Buyer?
What do you do if the buyer
announces they have to get approval for the order? Obviously they are
not the decision-maker (although they could still be the buyer). At
this stage find out exactly where they are in the decision-making tree.
Remember, they might only be an initiator, influencer, user or
Ask the prospect whether he/she
would buy, if it was their decision (this makes sure they are not
bluffing, and that it is just a way of getting you to leave). Your goal
is to discover whether they will support their company buying from you.
If they say yes, talk with the prospect about how, together, you will
get the buyer's decision to buy.
Discover the names of any and
all decision-makers and arrange a meeting with them. Remember, do everything you can to avoid having the
initiator/influencer sell on your behalf.
Learn as much as you can about
the decision-makers. Remember the more information you have the more
power over the situation you have.
Once you know who they are,
make a presentation to the decision-makers and ask for the order. Do
not place the sale back into the hands of the prospect.
Use these techniques and you
will waste less time selling to people who don't have the authority to
make the decision to buy.