Can you tell the difference between a suspect and a prospect?

Can you tell the difference between a suspect and a prospect?

Do you spend hours in meetings with people who don’t convert to customers?

Do your post-proposal phone calls and emails remain unanswered?

Is your conversion ratio poor?

Are you frustrated that you are working long hours and not growing?

If you have answered yes to at least one of these questions, then there’s a simple reason – you’re not putting yourself in front of the right people and differentiating between suspects and prospects. Even if you think you boast a healthy pipeline, dig deeper – are they really genuine prospects with a high potential of becoming a paying customer or are they actually suspects wasting your time? Do you know the difference?

Chances are you think your pipeline is healthier than it really is and therefore don’t undertake more prospecting. This will result in lower than expected sales results each month.

Talking to the wrong people isn’t just bad for business; all those wasted hours can have a negative impact on your motivation. Don’t waste precious time heading in the wrong direction, use it wisely and look out for these five tell-tale signs that distinguish a prospect from a suspect.

1. How do they perceive value vs. money?

Understand a prospect’s concept of what value a product/ service brings vs the cost of doing so. For instance, if you offer something that saves them time, those hours you’ve freed up could be the difference between them working at the weekend or spending time with their family. A prospect will see the value in your offering rather than the pure cost.

2. Are they willing to share information?

If a prospect has a genuine interest in converting to a customer, then they will be willing to share vital, often sensitive information with you. If you ask what budget they have to work with and what ROI they expect to see, a prospect will be open to providing these details with you. A suspect will be guarded and won’t provide definitive answers to your questions.

3. Have they provided a deadline?

Don’t be afraid to ask for their timescale for completing a project or potentially implementing your product/ service. A prospect will provide you with a deadline, which suggests that they have a firm plan in place, a sense of urgency and an element of commitment. Spending time with suspects who keep stalling isn’t beneficial to you or your business.

4. Who are you dealing with?

You need to speak directly with the decision maker as it’s difficult to sell to someone who doesn’t have the authority to make decisions. It also wastes unnecessary time going back and forth. If your contact is not willing to introduce you to the powers that be, then chances are they are not confident in pursuing a sale with you. Your contact will also not relay your proposition and value effectively to enable a positive decision.

5. Do you know what their critical need is?

A prospect will tell you where their business is struggling, which is your time to shine. Opening up to you and sharing their problems is a sign that they are serious about using your product/ service. You need to know their pain and if they aren’t willing to divulge that information, it’s likely that they can’t see you relieving it. 

Having spent more than 20 years managing sales teams and selling to blue chip global clients, it is this experience which has helped me to understand the traits of a suspect and a prospect. By asking myself these five vital questions, I have dismissed the suspects from my pipeline who will never convert into customers and invested my time in genuine prospects.

By understanding and implementing the difference between a suspect and a prospect, you will find that your conversion rates improve, and in turn, so do your sales figures, leaving you with time to enjoy life as well as your business.

Developing a robust sales strategy and how this dovetails in with your overall business strategy is a key part of the planning process.

Do you have a lengthy business plan and never look at it or maybe you have no plan at all? Many business owners don’t manage their company strategically, know what to focus on or measure daily, to have complete clarity and control.

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