I happened to pass by “Big Al’s Place” while driving thru Sledge, Mississippi recently. First, you need to know this is in the middle of nowhere (as in go to Memphis, turn left and two hours later kind of nowhere). Here in the middle of farm country, amongst the cotton fields, sat this place with all kinds of trucks and farming combines out front. It just had to be a local repair shop. One day the massive doors were up and several trucks were visible inside (have to talk to Al about his advertising though because when that big front door is up, this big sign is obviously not visible either). Using my keen powers of observation, I had this business all figured out.
Being an inquiring journalist, I thought I would send “Al” a note to find out what kind of Yellow Pages program he had. Surprise. Big Al’s in not a repair shop, it’s the duck hunting lodge home of The Coldwater Duck Club. But not just any club, it’s a huge 10,000 acre hunting facility as I found out when “Al” sent me a response back. Needless to say I was blown away. What happened? Simply put, I had prejudged what this business was just based on apperances only.
Some things are universal, like the tendency of sales people to prejudge leads, instead of working each one, systematically. They are looking for the low hanging fruit. We’re being human. We all know sales isn’t easy, and given these evolving industry times, and a tight economy, it’s not surprising that sometimes we sales people develop some bad habits, especially the “reaching-only-for-low-hanging fruit” syndrome.
Not matter what size business you are selling for, no matter what products or services you are selling, whether leads are walk-ins, phone calls, emails, or the next connection you make at a Christmas party, it’s important to systematically take each potential lead through a process, and never give up. I’m not suggesting that you don’t qualify candidates before you invest your very limited and precious time in meeting with or speaking with them. Just don’t confuse prejudging with qualifying.
Proper qualifying is part of the sales process your sales people should be following religiously. Pre-judging said simply, is all about you. Prejudging is bypassing that systematic process you would normally have to declare: “This lead is no good. I’ll go on to the next one.” When you pre-judge a lead you are making assumptions about them before you ask any questions or uncover any facts. When you pre-qualify someone, you are asking questions to uncover their unique and specific needs without making any assumptions so that you can determine very quickly if there is in fact, an authentic lead worth pursuing.
One other real world story — according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are roughly 27.5 million businesses in this country. Many of these small businesses are run by just one person. In fact, only 6 million of those businesses have any employees. Should we not even have a conversation with those other 21.5 million businesses because they are only a really small business?
Qualify, don’t prejudge…