Okay. So I’ve been in sales longer than some of my clients have been on the planet.
I’ve made thousands and thousands of prospecting calls, and thousands and thousands of closing calls.
I teach, train, write books on phone scripts, and develop customized phone scripts and inside sales training programs for sales teams worldwide.
You’d think that I would never get tripped up by or neglect the fundamentals of sales, right?
Just this morning (April 28, 2017), I was on the phone with a new prospect and he was asking me about my background, my training methods, etc. We had good rapport. He was an inbound lead. We really connected and he was interested. This was a slam dunk, right?
As we got to the end of the call, I was positive I’d be getting on a plane in the next couple of weeks to work with this prospect. And that’s when I asked a qualifying question that I neglected to ask upfront: “What is your timeline for this training?” He told me, “Sometime in the Fall.”
So, after a ½ hour on the phone, this call went….nowhere. Where did I go wrong? When he asked me what my process was when working with companies, I should not have assumed he was ready to go. Instead, I should have done what I teach: Qualify.
And the first thing I should have qualified for was his urgency to make a decision. By the way, I normally do this, but because the rapport was so strong, and, again, he was a call in lead, I assumed he was all set. He wasn’t…
Here are some ways to qualify for timeline:
For an inbound call, what I should have done (and will not be skipping again!) is ask:
“First off, I generally book several months in advance, so let’s talk about when you need this training – if everything goes well during your discovery process, when is the soonest you’d like to have this training delivered to your team?”
If he then told me it was six months off (“in the Fall”), I’d have given him an abbreviated pitch, and then told him I’d circle around with him in September.
If you are prospecting to set an appointment or a demo, then the following scripts to qualify for timeline are what you use:
“If you like what you see after the demo, what would be the next steps on your side?”
“If you think this solution is what you’re looking for, what would be your timeline for putting something like this to work for you?”
“If after the demo this is something you’re interested in taking advantage of, could you implement this in the next couple of weeks?”
Qualifying for timeline upfront is crucial to not only closing more sales, but also to avoiding objections at the end like, “I want to think about it…”
Use any of the scripts above, or rewrite them to fit your personality, product or service.
Take my word for it: It’s MUCH better to know in advance when your prospect is thinking of buying.