A common mistake made by many underwriting salespeople is treating all prospects as if they were all the same. The fact is that some prospects just can’t afford underwriting.
That's where qualifying your prospect comes into play. That simply means that you're exploring how likely that prospect is to become an underwriter. A key part of this process is knowing whether or not they have the financial resources.
Qualifying your prospect isn't complicated to do. In fact, making sure you answer five simple questions about your prospects can lead you to increase sales, efficiency, and generate more revenue.
1. Do they have a budget?
It doesn't matter how much a person actually wants or needs to reach your listeners or viewers if they don't have the money to pay for it. If a prospect doesn't have the resources to afford what you're offering, then there's no point moving forward with the sales process.
You can get a good feel of whether or not they can afford it by simply asking them what their budget is. You can also explain the price range of an effective schedule and ask them if that's within their budget. There are different ways to qualify your prospect's budget, so find an approach that's comfortable for you and use it every time you're qualifying a new prospect.
2. Do they have authority?
Making your sales presentation to someone who isn't in the position or doesn't have the authority to make a decision is pointless. And in sales time management is essential, so focusing your communication only on those key individuals who have the authority is key.
But often it's not as simple as that. A middle manager may take your sales meeting because he or she is the head of their department, but may not have any real power to make a decision. You can save yourself a lot of wasted time by simply asking the question, "Who is responsible for making a purchase decision?" And then deal only with that person.
When asking this question, be careful of answers involving multiple decision-makers such as, "I run the department, but I have to run it by my partner, boss, accounting, etc." In my experience, that generally means the person is either a middle manager who doesn't want to admit that he doesn't have the power to make a purchasing decision, or he’s fielding your solicitation for his boss. You don't want to deal with middle managers. You want to deal directly with the decision-maker.
Dealing with committees? They can take a long time to come to a decision but, in some cases, you might have to work with a committee because that's how the organization's buying process works. In those cases, I would try to arrange meetings where all the key decision-makers are present so everyone gets the same presentation and everyone gets their own questions answered. Follow-up is important in committee buying situations because they usually have so much going on that it's fairly easy for your deal to get pushed on the back burner. You'll want to gently coax your deal back to the front burner until a decision has been made.
3. Do they have a need?
Soliciting someone who has no immediate need, desire, or interest for what you're offering is a waste of their time and yours.
Behind every desire to buy, there's a need to solve a problem. People buy underwriting to solve that problem. Often, however, that underlying need is hidden and you have to carefully probe with questions to uncover what it is. Once you've identified their need, you'll be able to position your product or service in a way that best illustrates its ability to solve their problem and meet their need.
Sometimes you'll find that a prospect has a need that they weren't even aware of. This is where education plays a part in the process to qualify a prospect. A seasoned sales professional will have the ability to uncover genuine needs and educate their prospect about the real value of a public media sponsorship.
4. Do they have a time-frame?
You'll want to identify how soon your prospect wants to begin an underwriting schedule. The sooner their time-frame is, the quicker and easier the sale will be. However, if their time-frame is long or unsure, then you might be spinning your wheels for months without any results, simply because you didn’t qualify their time-frame. By asking them what the time-frame for their buying decision is, you can tailor your sales process and your efforts accordingly.
In the case where your prospect hasn't identified a buying-decision window, I would recommend creating an early deadline for them and taking action on that deadline. For example, since you have a limited amount of available inventory, inform them that, if they commit to making a purchase by the end of the week, you can guarantee that you'll have the inventory they need. Often, just creating a deadline for your prospects is enough to convince them to make a decision, now.
5. Do they have compatibility?
This final step in the qualification process is simply whether or not you feel that your prospect would make a good customer for your business. Are they compatible with your philosophy, business practices, communication style, and/or ethics? Do they understand the value of underwriting and supporting your station?
At some point in our careers we’ve all dealt with what turns out to be a problem account and a big drain on our time. This investment of time might outweigh the value of having them as an underwriter in the first place, so this final step can help you weed out those prospects whom you feel are not compatible with your business practices. By this point in the selling process you would have had several meetings with your prospect and you should know them fairly well. Ask yourself, "Is this a person that I would enjoy doing business with in the future?" Let your gut instinct tell you yes or no on this one.
When you engage with a new prospect, keep this qualifying process in mind and you'll end up generating more revenue, saving more time, and having happier clients.