When the prospect says, “No, I bought from your competitor,” you at least know where you stand. But it drives you crazy when what seemed like a strong prospect suddenly goes dark. Is this cold sales prospect lost forever, and it is a waste of your time to keep trying? Or is there a way to rekindle your sales process to ultimately close?
When you hear “Yes” or “No,” you usually know what to do next. But when an active prospect becomes a cold sales prospect, you need to know whether to cut your losses or continue selling.
Proposal submitted, follow-up done, but no response from the prospect. They expressed interest but where did your customer go? Since 55% of selling time is wasted on unproductive prospecting, here are 20 questions that prevent prospects from going MIA, increase sales and keep you focused on the right opportunities to prevent sales frostbite.
The Disappearing Act: When Seemingly Interested Customers Become Cold Sales Prospects
“I sent the proposal. The prospect said they would review it and get back to me next week. They sounded engaged and excited about what we can do for them. A week went by and I didn’t get a response, so I reached out to them, left a voicemail and sent an email. Still, I got no response. I guess they weren’t interested, didn’t like me or what we offered. They probably went with another company, stayed with their current provider or felt our solution didn’t fit their budget. I wish I could do something to reconnect with them before they go dark and I never hear from them again.”
Missing In Action: Where Did My Customer Go?
Every salesperson has experienced this kind of cold sales prospect at some point. The typical strategy to counteract this situation would be to continue to follow up with them, move them down the list of priority prospects, or remove them from your database of leads and opportunities.
With the time invested in trying to convert prospects into loyal, happy clients, the worst thing a salesperson can do is invest their time with prospects that are not and will never be a good fit. When you invest your day focusing on the wrong prospects, you’re no longer investing your time with the right ones. To compound this costly conundrum, you’re now helping your competition win the business that could have been yours.
To support these claims, statistics show that more than 55% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting and 70% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel.
So, where’s the breakdown? Is it the salesperson’s skill, will, process, attitude or discipline? What if the root cause is not having the right questions to masterfully qualify every opportunity?
I’m not just referring to the foundational questions used during your discovery process. These are the questions that would gather information about their industry, company, competitive landscape, challenges, goals, desired level of customer service, expectations from you and your product/service, current solutions or vendors they’re using, their decision-making process, the criteria they use when choosing a vendor or making a buying decision, the information they need that’s most important for them, and so on.
Instead, salespeople need to focus on a series of deeper, critical qualifying questions that prevent prospects from disappearing by uncovering how they truly feel about you and the likelihood that they, at some point, will transform from a prospect and into a customer.
Sales Frostbite: How to Prevent Warm Prospects from Going Cold
Here are 20 questions to ask during the initial qualifying step to ensure it’s an opportunity worth pursuing, while preventing your prospects from going MIA. Keep in mind, these are the questions to ask at the end of your preliminary conversation with a prospect. Do this after you’ve leveraged your initial discovery questions that I listed above that would assess if the prospect is a well-qualified opportunity.
Asking these questions keeps your costly assumptions about each prospect at bay so you are making decisions based on the facts rather than fiction. Most importantly, these questions help get in your prospect’s head to determine if they understand your value proposition, key differentiators and the likelihood of choosing you.
How to Align Expectations and Hyper-Qualify Every Selling Opportunity
Here’s how to transition from your initial qualifying questions into these non-negotiable questions.
“Thanks again for your time today. I’m glad we had an opportunity to connect, learn more about your business and what we can do for you to become a trusted partner that will help you achieve your objectives. Before we wrap up, let’s do a quick review of what we discussed to ensure I met your expectations.”
13 Questions To Uncover What the Prospect Really Thinks and Determine If They’re Worth Pursuing
- So, how are you feeling about our conversation?
- Given what we discussed, what stood out as most important to you?
(Then you can follow up with, “Thanks, may I ask why?”)
- What do you like most about our product/service that makes us unique?
(Remember, people often resist what they hear but believe what they say. This avoids sounding pushy or like everyone else who is telling the prospect why they should buy rather than having them share why they would buy from you.)
- What about our service do you find most valuable?
- How well does our product/service align with your business objectives?
- What additional factors, if any, would make us your vendor of choice?
- How committed are you to your current vendor/solution provider?
- What concerns, if any, do you have about working together that could prevent us from being your vendor/partner of choice?
- Given what you’ve learned about our solution, why would you hire us?
- Other than you, who else, if anyone, would be involved in this decision-making process that you feel we should include in our next conversation?
- What other priorities or initiatives are you working on that could defer this decision or move it down your list of priorities?
- If you decide to hire us, how quickly would you want to begin this project?
- To recap, if we can (state deliverables/measurable outcomes and what you need to do) then we would earn your business?
7 Questions That Protect Your Time and Propel Your Sales Process Forward
- I’m happy to send you the (proposal, pricing sheet, agreement, details about our products/services, etc.). In order for me to meet your expectations, what information do you need that will confirm we’re the best solution for you?
- When do you need this information?
- I would love to get this information to you tomorrow. However, I don’t want to do you a disservice and rush through this, which is why I want to ensure I give this the time and attention it deserves. So, what’s the latest I can get this to you while honoring your timeline?
(Most people want things done yesterday. However, it doesn’t mean they need it at the time they requested. Instead of feeling stressed about honoring a tight deadline, this question creates more time for you. You can also suggest a deadline that you know you can deliver on without feeling overwhelmed or dropping other priorities. For example: “Would it still work around your timetable if I get this to you by Friday?”)
- To ensure I’m being respectful of your time, can you quickly share your process when reviewing proposals like these?
- If get this to you by Friday, given your current schedule, when do you think you’ll have chance to review the proposal/overview?
(Just because they said they wanted it on a certain day doesn’t mean they will have the time to review what you send, especially if there are more people involved in the decision. Maybe they won’t have a chance to review your proposal for two weeks. Now, let’s assume they say Tuesday.)
- If you have a chance to review the information by Tuesday, when would be a good time to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss this proposal?
(If you want to be more intentional, you can always suggest two days and times that work for you. For example: “What works better for you? Thursday or Friday? Do you prefer the morning or afternoon?” Always ensure you have the next step identified and scheduled to move your sales process forward. Scheduling the next step removes the ambiguity around the next step without being annoying.)
- I know everyone gets busy. If I don’t hear from you by next week of we we’re unable to reconnect, what’s the best way to get in touch with you? Through your assistant, your mobile, a text, your office number, horse and buggy, pager, homing pigeon, snail mail, email, Skype, InMail, Morse code or telegraph?
(If they can’t commit to a scheduled time to reconnect, this question interjects humor, while identifying their preferred channel of communication.)
Tip from the coach: If they’re unable to answer these questions or are reluctant to do so, consider this a warning sign that they may not truly be committed to making this a priority, exploring a partnership with you or investing in your solution. And always be on the lookout for those prospects who collect other bids and RFPs to be compliant around their vendor selection, knowing their intention is to use your information to justify staying with their existing solution provider.
You’re Not Done Yet
Now that you have gone layers deeper to assess if this person is a viable prospect and confirmed the next step in your sales process, here’s how to end the conversation to avoid any miscommunication and keep the process moving forward.
“Thanks Mr./Mrs. Customer for your time. You can expect an email containing the information you requested, a recap of what we discussed and our next steps. Thanks again for the opportunity to work with you. Have a great day.”
Eliminate Cold Sales Prospects
Try these questions on your next prospect. This deeper level of qualifying will make your sales process easier, increase your forecast accuracy, close more sales and give you more time each day to focus on the right prospects, disqualify the wrong ones and make you a sales champion.