How to Qualify Top Prospects

Successful salespeople know that not all prospects are created equal. Some are a perfect fit for a company, resulting in long-term profits and mutually beneficial relationships. Others may not be as qualified. They require months of attention before finally purchasing a fraction of what you proposed, or refusing the sale all together.

Being able to determine the likelihood of converting a lead at the onset of the relationship can help you direct your focus, shorten your sales cycles, and save time, energy and resources (“7 Reasons Why You Must Zealously Qualify Prospects”).

Therefore, look for those individuals that have a need for the product or service you are selling, sufficient budget to purchase, and the authority to buy. If a prospect is lacking any of these attributes, the likelihood of closing the sale significantly decreases (“Qualifying Sales Prospects”).

Below are some tips to help you determine who your most qualified prospects are.

Ask the Right Questions 

Asking the right questions is a good starting point in determining who is a qualified prospect. In his article, “Seven Critical Qualifying Questions,” Rob Halvorsen recommends the following:

  • What need(s) does the prospect have that can be met by your solution? Can your salesperson clearly articulate those needs?
  • Why would the prospect be willing to spend “X” dollars for your product or service? Has it been budgeted?
  • When does the prospect plan to implement your product or service? For many products and services, implementation — not the close date — is the key because it is the purpose of the buying decision. It also focuses on the customer's perceived benefits, not the salesperson's sales forecast.
  • Who will make the decision to buy the product or service?
  • Who are the decision influencers who can bring pressure to bear (positive or negative) on the person who will make the final decision?
  • Who has the budget or spending authority to implement the decision? Do not confuse decision and spending authority. They may not be vested in the same person.
  • Which decision makers have your salespeople called on? It should be all of them!

Track Prospect Behavior

Study your online marketing and Web analytics to find out who is educating themselves about your product or service. Review items such as:

  • What parts of your Website did prospects visit?
  • How much time did they spend educating themselves about a specific product or service?
  • Did prospects forward information on to anyone else?
  • What calls to action did prospects take?

Then, use this type of data to determine who is most interested and to what extent.

For added effectiveness, gather information from multiple touch points. For example, if you send multiple emails to introduce your product or service, or as a lead nurturing activity, use a tool that enables you to track opens and prospect activity.


Prioritize how much effort should go into each prospect based on the information collected. Concentrate on those prospects that are more likely to result in a sale and will be profitable customers over the long term.

Are they in a position to make a decision?

Think specifically about what position prospects hold and what role they play in the purchasing decision. According to Moses Isaac’s article, “The Buying Decision Process,” there are five roles prospects may fall into, including:

  • Initiator — The person who first suggests the idea of buying the product or service
  • Influencer — The person whose view or advice influences the decision
  • Decider — The person who decides on any component of a buying decision, including whether to buy, what to buy, how much to buy or where to buy
  • Buyer — The person who makes the actual purchase
  • User — The person who consumes or uses the product or service

In this case, a prospect in the “Buyer” role would be more qualified than a prospect in the “Initiator” or “User” role. That being said, do not automatically discount the influence an “Initiator” or “User” may have on the buying decision.

How urgent are they to purchase?

Also consider your prospect’s urgency to purchase. Prospects looking for an immediate fix to their problem(s) are more likely to buy. Therefore, take into account a prospect’s timeframe when determining how to allocate your time and effort. 

In his article, “Smart Prospecting: 5 Keys to Making the Most of Your Selling Time,” Jim Domanski suggests asking questions such as:

  • When will you be implementing the project?
  • When do you expect to make the final decisions on suppliers?
  • When will you be issuing a purchase order?

Another way to determine urgency is to analyze prospect behavior for signs. For instance, how fast do they return your calls and emails? Or, how proactive are they in learning more about you?


Qualifying can help you allocate resources to the right people at the right time. Therefore, understanding the importance of qualifying prospects and effective strategies to do so is crucial to the success of a salesperson.

Image Credit: Ségozyme



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