Once upon a time, it may have been possible to qualify a prospect by asking questions that would determine whether you had the goods to sell to them.
• When is the event? (Do we space that day? Is it a prime season and can we add a premium)
• Where have you held events in the past? (Can they afford what I’m offering?)
• How many people do you expect to attend? (Can we fit them into our private dining space? Is this a big piece of business for our main ballroom?)
•Are you looking for meeting space + sleeping accommodations and will they be using the spa while they’re here? (What can I upsell?)
are yesterday’s qualifying questions (that is, if they ever worked).
It’s not that you can’t ask these questions. The information gained from those questions is needed to see if you can accommodate them.
But they shouldn’t be asked at the beginning of a conversation because your prospect knows exactly what you’re doing… and what you’re doing is thinking about your own needs and making the sale.
Instead, here are 3 keys to qualifying prospects now:
1.”Be more interested than interesting” Jim Collins wrote that line in his book Good to Great. Focus entirely on learning from the buyer to see how you can help them be better than they would be without you. Don’t ask self-serving, status type questions. Don’t talk about what you can do for them. Sincerely focus on holding a conversation that isn’t a sales conversation but a convo between two colleagues.
2. Eliminate any questions that build up their current vendor:
•Can you tell me what made your last meeting great?
•What was the best thing that you remember about your last event?
•What did your group really like about ABC?
These don’t even count as qualifying questions to me! They serve to remind the prospect how happy she was with her previous vendor (so why bother with the stress of trying something new?) and provide little meaningful information to you that will help them be better than they would be without you.
3. Ask issue-based questions. My friend, Ron Karr, in his excellent book, Lead, Sell or Get Out of the Way, calls questions that start a high level conversation, “issue- based.” Most likely you can figure out that they talk about … (get ready for it)… issues!
Here are 3 examples of great conversation starter questions:
•In your experiences with your group, which aspect of the event is what people talk about and look forward to?
•In working with your colleagues, they often mention that X is …. important. Because your group is in many ways unique, I’m wondering if that is a key driver for you or are there other more important issues?
•In my experience working with planners, I’ve found that at this point in the planning process they often have questions about X and Y. Is that on your mind, too, or is that already covered?
I can hear you now thinking, “But I can’t use those at the beginning of a conversation, can I?”
What do you do?
Oh, really.. may I ask you, in my experience working with planners…
It not only works; it’s an idea whose time has come! You’ll not just qualify prospects by applying these 3 key principles, you’ll help them to want to learn more from you.