Pick And Choose Your Customers

Customers are great. Without them, there would be no business. So what is this craziness about qualifying the people to which you sell? Truth is, not all customers are created equal.

How often do you spend time sending quotes, making follow up calls, and updating your CRM/sales system, only to find out that the customer is really just in the fact-finding stage and have no intention to do business at the time? While having no solid plans for the foreseeable future, such prospects are nevertheless beaming with enthusiasm and are willing to eat up your valuable time finding out as much information as possible. The exact time you could be using to make cold hard cash. Think about it.

Photo by Katia Delgado

That’s when you need to exercise caution and your bendy straw-like flexibility. Once you realize that your newfound relationship is not going anywhere any time soon, it’s very easy to dismiss and forget such customers. Big mistake. You never know whether and when a curious prospect might turn into a fat account, so don’t rush them out of the door just yet. However, be wise and don’t spend extra effort courting them either. Without properly qualifying your customer, you run the risk of spending your resources on a someone who’s not willing to part with their cash in exchange for your wonder-product or service.

Listen carefully to the questions a prospective customer asks and then raise a few of your own in order to gauge their readiness to join the elite army of your customers. Made up example to illustrate: say I sold custom window treatments for restaurants. Would I spend hours advertising my marvelous products to someone who doesn’t even have a lease on his eatery? Not a chance. What I would do is provide them with basic information, give them a few things to consider (maybe even point them to my website) and set up a time/date to follow up. By treating the customer in this manner you not only show them that you care, but also allow them the luxury of learning at their own pace – no car-salesman-like pressure. You’re welcome, prospective customer.

Truly, it’s a win-win situation. One important aspect to consider: before parting ways, make sure you find out about the next major milestone on their way to “readiness” and do not forget to follow up then. If by the time of follow up there is not a substantial progress, remove the prospect from your database. Think of it as checking on your “ugly ducklings” in hopes that one of them will turn into a beautiful swan with padded pockets.

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