How three qualification questions can prevent wasted print sales time

Posted by Matthew Parker

Have you measured your company’s quote conversion rate recently?

Recently I was talking to a consultant I know who works in MIS.  He was telling me some of the latest quote conversion rates that he had seen.  Many print companies are working at conversion rates of 10% or less.

That means a lot of wasted time for print companies.  It means a lot of resource that is tied up producing no profit.  Having a low conversion rate is an expensive business.

However, this expense often happens because a vital stage of the sales process is left out.

Print sales people need to qualify prospects properly

Is this what is happening to your quote conversion rates?  The right qualification questions will improve them.

Is this what is happening to your quote conversion rates? The right qualification questions will improve them.

Print companies that qualify prospects properly will end up wasting a lot less time.  Sales people will not spend time on prospects that are unlikely to convert.  The estimating team will become a lot more efficient.  The company should see its quote conversion measurement improve considerably.

Print companies chase all prospects without qualifying them will retain a low quote conversion rate. Internal resources will not be used efficiently.  Sales people will be chasing prospects but achieving very little result.

Here are three things that print sales people should do to qualify prospects.

Ask your prospect about their decision making process

A discussion about the customer’s decision-making process can tell you a lot.  It is the best way to learn how serious they are about working with you.

You will get a sense of how many people they are talking to about their print work.  You will also get a sense of if they are investigating new suppliers properly.

Once you have this sort of dialogue in place, it is easy to ask a follow up question.

Ask what you need to do to be awarded the business

This will give you a sense of how eager a prospect is to work with you.  Some companies will give you a straightforward set of goals to accomplish.  You’ll know what questions you need to answer.

Other companies will be less clear.  You will get a sense of whether they are really looking at new suppliers.  Or if they are simply looking for opportunities to reduce the prices of their current supplier.

If the warning bells are beginning to ring, you should consider asking this third question.

Ask the prospect if they are serious about working with you

Sometimes it is worth being this blunt.  A prospect may give a clear yes.  But they may be more qualified in their response.  Sometimes you will receive the message that it is simply all about price.

Some sales people are not so convinced about the power of these questions.

Won’t a prospect simply say what you want to hear?

You will be surprised at how open and honest many prospects are.  As a buyer, I have always been happy to be straightforward with answers to questions such as these.  As a seller, I have often been able to know exactly where I stand with potential prospects when I ask these questions.

Sometimes I don’t hear what I want.  That’s because I am dealing with a sensible sales person who does not want to waste their time.  They remember an important rule of selling.

Don’t be afraid to say no

I see many sales people who progress their sales pitches despite prospects making it very clear that they are highly unlikely to win work.  The people are wasting time.  They should be looking out for more realistic prospects to work with.

Chasing prospects who are unlikely to convert is a waste of everyone’s time.

Here’s an example of how I dis-qualified a client

A new contact rang me up.  They were interested in getting a print price from me.  Before I agreed to give them a quote I went through my series of qualifying questions.  I soon found out that they were approaching over twenty printers for a price!  I also found out that price was all that they were interested in.

I quickly thanked them for their interest and said that I didn’t wish to compete for their business in this way.  I knew that, even if I won the work, they would go through the same process again.  I knew that it would be hard to keep the work on price only.

I knew that I’d be better off trying to sell to a different type of client.

Here are three action points to get you qualifying prospects

  1. Give these three questions to all the sales people at your company
  2. Ask sales people to report on the answers they receive to these questions every time they ask for prices for new work
  3. Give them the power to disqualify clients

Qualifying prospects is vital

You want to keep an eye on your quote conversion rate.  You want to make sure your figure is way higher than 10%.
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P.S.  Once you have qualified a prospect, how do you sell to them successfully?  Find out how other print companies are doing this by signing up to the Profitable Print Relationships newsletter right now.  And you’ll get a free copy of  “Ten Common Print Selling Errors and What To Do About Them”.

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