We’ve spoken many times about time management in business and life and how important it is to your success. There’s a form of time-wasting that many engage that could be easily avoided if they practice just one thing. The time-waster is of course spending time having conversations with the wrong people or having the wrong conversations. The goal of your business is to sell and sell more. Therefore if you’re having conversations that aren’t leading to sales you’re pretty much wasting a good lot of valuable time. There is somewhat of an obsession with busyness in business but this may actually be hurting your business more than it’s helping. Let’s look a little bit deeper into the elements of a sale to understanding how you can qualify your customers and why you should be doing it.

Elements of a sale

To understand this concept of qualifying customers let’s look into how a sale occurs. In this case, we need not make it complex, let’s consider how you react to an advert for a product you see on social media or an internet advert. The product gets your attention, perhaps you’ve been looking for something like it. Then the sale begins. You inquire what it does, you look at details and specifications and you want it. Now comes the purchase consideration. How much is it? Where can you get it? Are there extra costs involved? Shipping or delivery costs or collection? Payment methods available? This is where it is most important to qualify but we will come back to this in the next paragraph. Then of course comes the fulfilment of the sale and any after-sales service.

Qualifying prospects

Qualifying customers is the process of establishing if the person you are talking to is in fact a customer or simply an enquirer. While the logic goes that the more conversations salespeople have the more likely they are to sell it ignores the quality (read: convertibility) of those conversations. Prospects are considered unqualified when there is no certainty of their convertibility and qualified when there is some certainty of their convertibility. Before a prospect is aware of price, place and process they are certainly unqualified. The result of spending time in conversation with unqualified prospects is unrewarding conversations.

Quality over quantity of conversations

While speaking to unqualified prospects amounts to a lot of work being done it does not amount to conversion. This is the concept of busyness versus business. Take the example of someone selling via social media who does not indicate prices of items and instead requires prospects to DM for price. In a country like Zimbabwe where the payment methods matter you will find such a person busy with enquiries about price, payment methods and process. You are definitely busy but are you doing business? What percentage of enquiries are you converting? If price, payment methods and process were indicated in advertising where indicated in the initial advert it would be reasonable to assume that all conversations are conducted with people who are aware of and have agreed to the price, payment method and process. The job of converting them is a much easier task than converting the uninitiated.

Save critical resources for conversion

Qualifying prospects is a matter of critical resources allocation. Your time is limited by the nature of time. Your ability to handle multiple conversations is limited by the constraint of being human. You can engage in multiple conversations at a time but can only be activated in or focus on one at a time. Talking to unqualified prospects is time waster particularly where the details such as price, payment methods and process are pretty well set. If you had to choose between a qualified prospect who is ready to buy and an unqualified prospect who requires qualification the choice is obvious. Using your marketing and advertising material as tools to qualify prospects makes sense because it gives you conversations with prospects who are partly or fully qualified.

Boost the bottom line

The idea here is simple but effective; boosting your bottom line or top line if you’re looking at it from an accounting perspective. Think of your sales as a fire. This fire is fueled by wood which is a representation of the prospects you converse with. Quality wood burns hotter  while low quality wood may not burn at all. You would rather feed this metaphoric fire with quality wood. If you are inexperienced with differentiating the quality of wood, you could end up putting the fire out by overloading it with low-quality wood. Qualifying is the process through which you choose the good wood.

The best way to observe the effect is through measurement if you are not already qualifying your prospects. In social media you can found this being referred to as A/B testing. Placing two ads, one with qualifying details the other without. It is best not to run these ads concurrently. You would expect the one without qualifying details to have more responses but ultimately lower conversion from enquiries to customers.