Master The Meeting

Pre-qualify your prospects

Often, when new business meetings go sour, your selling skills aren't to blame. You may just be meeting the wrong prospects. Do you carefully pre-qualify all prospects by phone before agreeing to meet with them? If not, it can cost you time and money. The cost of an average sales call ranges from just over $100 to several hundred, depending on your industry and location. If your meetings continually fall flat due to poorly qualified prospects, you're wasting valuable time you could be spending doing billable work or meeting with the right people.

To qualify prospects, you have to know what you're looking for. What characteristics make someone an ideal prospect for you? Make a list of the questions you need to ask to assess whether a prospect fits what you're looking for. Then refer to that list when making your initial phone calls.

Let's say you're marketing public relations services to hospitals and your focus is on special events and publicity. Suppose you're contacting the community relations director at a large institution to suggest a meeting to discuss how you can help create a program of health-related events and activities to raise awareness for the hospital and position it as a caring leader in the community. Your list of qualifying questions might want to reveal:

  • the number and type of events the hospital stages each year;
  • the content and status of any community relations program currently in place; and
  • whether the hospital is using one of your competitors to plan and execute its current program.

A qualified prospect needs what you have to offer, can afford it and is willing to pay for it. During the qualifying process, if you find out a prospect is using your competitor, it means he or she fits all three criteria--and it's full speed ahead.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Master The Meeting.

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