Seven Steps To The Right Prospect

By Michael Rega

Publication: American Salesman
Date: June 1, 1998

Prospects are hard to come by, especially the right prospect. Getting to the right prospect can be the most difficult job today in the intense sales market where voice mail, e-mail, facsimiles and other types of electronic devices screen us from the true prospect.

Many times, when we finally get through to whom we believe is the correct prospect, they, in fact, direct us in an entirely new direction. “Oh, that’s Harry’s department,” or “Oh, that’s Sue’s department. You really need to see one of them.”

In order to save time to get to the true prospect, remember this true prospect’s test. A true prospect must have two things. They must have need and capacity. The need side is easy. A lot of people need your product; a lot of people want your product. However, the capacity side gets a little bit trickier because it involves dollars. Capacity means; does this prospect have the authority to say yes to my proposal or product? Perhaps most importantly, does he or she have the money to back it up? Our true prospect’s test determines that a prospect equals need plus capacity. Capacity equals authority and money.

No More Leos

We rarely make a sale on one call in the adult education/sales training business. Our sales are multiple proposals, negotiations, etc. There was a particular call on a large frozen fish distributor in Chicago a few years ago. I went up in the lavishly decorated elevator and exited to the mahogany covered suite of the president of the fish company. I thought to myself while I was sitting in his office, “Boy, this is a terrific lead. I am in the president’s office.” When he arrived he began to tell me the woes of the sales department. He knew they needed help in training and if he did not get training, this competitive market place was going to gobble him alive. They, in fact, would cease to exist. Again I thought to myself, “What a wonderful lead. Here is this person with a multimillion dollar company and he knows what he needs to do. I am here to do it for him and he is bleeding to death in front of me.”

He then introduced me to his vice president of sales and marketing, and again I thought, “This is terrific. I am getting all the players in the room, the decision makers etc.” Think about that lead for a moment. This vice president of sales and marketing must have looked at me suspiciously as I was introduced to him by his president. After all, it was probably his job to have his sales force humming on all three cylinders. However, things worked out and I traveled with the vice president of sales and marketing. I was able to convince him he indeed needed our adult education training.

As I said earlier we never sell on the first or second call. So it came to about the sixth call, with the vice president of sales and the vice president of marketing. Negotiation had stopped. We had come to an agreement on all terms and this was the famous “press hard six copies” meeting. I briefly looked over my proposal, put a tick mark where I wanted the president to sign, slid it over to him and I smiled. He smiled back at me and glanced over to his vice president. They both smiled; the old famous silent close. He picked up his (what must have been a several hundred dollar) gold pen, and looked up at the ceiling for a moment. My heart started to pound again as it always does when I am closing a large deal. He looked at his vice president and said, “Do you suppose we ought to have Leo look at this before we sign it?” I can tell you a voice in my head asked, “Who is Leo?” When I cleared the obvious frog from my throat and could speak again I said, “Excuse me, who is Leo?”

The president said, “Oh, Leo’s actually the CEO’s son-in- law and is also the accountant. He likes to look things over before we go ahead and sign these big orders.” A moment later Leo entered the room. Typically accountants and sales people don’t see eye to eye on many things (not to pick on accountants). Leo walked in, no eye contact, gave me a frozen fish hand shake, (no pun on the company). Now Leo was wearing a three piece suit. Of course it was a piece from one suit, a piece from a second suit and a piece from a third suit. So here I am in a meeting where I think the deal is closed, negotiations are done and I’m ready to sign perhaps my largest contract. I think I’m in one area of the sale and that’s the closing and the signing. Suddenly, for the first time, I have the true financial prospect in the office. I’m in a whole other sale with the financial buyer, a whole other part of the sale on the front end and now I’m going to try to cost justify my existence to Leo, the three piece suit accountant, who does not see eye to eye with sales people. So, these seven steps are key and vital to help you get to the proper prospect.

1. Ask yourself constantly, does this person have the need for my product, specifically, does this person have need?

2. Does this person have the capacity for my product or proposal?

3. Does this person have the authority to say yes?

4. Does this person have the money to say yes?

5. Ask your prospect, “Is there anyone else that needs to be involved in this decision? Is there anyone else from a financial side, and is there anyone else from an organization side?

6. Who will win in terms of benefits if they go with your proposal?

7. Who may be considered a loser if they go with your proposal?

You will not be surprised by the “Leos” of the world if you use these prospect finding steps. You will get to the proper prospect many, many, more times much quicker and your proposals will be accepted much more frequently.