Qualifying Potential Clients to Save Time

When it comes to potential clients, there are two situations in building a service-based business:

  1. No leads or very few client leads: for you, getting a new client lead is a celebration, because you have barely enough work to scrape by and pay the bills. Since your business isn’t slammed with work, you have no fear of wasting your time by talking to unqualified leads, you’re just happy someone contacted you.
  2. Too many leads: your business is busy and you’re spending three plus hours a week talking to potential clients. This is a good problem to have. You’ve done things to build notoriety within your industry, and potential clients are finding you. Things are good. Now the issue is how to make time for sales. You’re doing several jobs, project management, billing hours, and trying to squeeze sales into the schedule.

Dealing with Each Situation

No Leads or Very Few Client Leads

Not having enough leads is a marketing problem and off-topic, but start fixing this problem by reading our Time Allocation Formula for Creating a Viable Business, watch our Barcamp Orlando Talk and then read how Sales isn’t about Selling.

Too Many Leads? Learn About Vetting Leads

Okay, you have leads flowing in, and you’re hopping on the phone to chat with potential clients. You quickly realize you cannot spend time talking to each person on the phone, because it sucks your whole day away.

These “unqualified leads” are “wasting” your time because:

  1. Most cannot afford your high rate.
  2. The work these leads have for you aren’t projects that you enjoy.

Getting potential clients on the phone to chat is very time consuming. You have to set an appointment, which can involve two to five emails. You have to talk to them for 15-45 minutes. So in total, each lead takes 50-90 minutes of your brain space. If you’re receiving a few leads a week, you can see how fast your time gets sucked away by talking to people that aren’t the right fit for your company.

Within 30 minutes of being on the phone with this potential client, you’ll realize it’s not a good fit and spend the rest of the call finding a way to kindly end the conversation.

Side Note: I’m a nice guy, and I believe in helping people. I also believe your time is precious and you should focus on building a profitable business.

Qualities of a Ripe Client Lead

I can’t say what types of projects or technology you prefer, I can only list the qualities of any ripe client lead.

  • They have enough money to afford your rate.
  • They’re not a wanna-be entrepreneur that pussyfoots around.
  • They’re ready to start. Which means they’ve thought through the problem, the market, the software, etc.

Remember, you only want to spend your time talking to ripe client leads.

Vetting or Qualifying a Client Lead Before a Phone Call

Here are a few ways to vet potential clients before you waste time with them on the phone.

  1. Qualify Leads on Your Website: If you want a certain type of client, list them on your website. Be clear on the industries you serve and the types of projects you take.
  2. Qualify Leads on Your Contact Form: A standard practice is to list “budget” on your contact form. This will let your clients know, “Don’t contact us unless you’re serious about spending money.”
  3. Qualify Leads via Email, after Contact Form Submission: When we were consultants, we wanted as many leads as possible to contact us. 99% of client leads came from our contact form. We sent them a standard email back, which you can see below.

Qualify Pontential Client Leads via Email

We’d reply to potential clients with the following:

potential clients

Question: Give me three sentences describing the project. 
Purpose: I want to see if they’ve thought about their project enough to clearly explain it.

Question: When is launch? 
Purpose: This will scare off people that aren’t serious about starting and launching.

Question: Are we designing and developing? 
Purpose: Doesn’t matter, this is a filler question.

Question: Who is hosting the project? 
Purpose: I want to see how much research they’ve done, and how serious they are.

Question: Have you run a software project before? 
Purpose: Helps knowing their background so you can shape your sales pitch.

Question: Is your budget over $35,000 for the initial launch? 

Question: How did you find our site? 
Purpose: This also doesn’t really matter, but it might give some insight into why they decided to contact you.

When you read potential clients’ answers, focus on whether they are serious about their project and have truly done some planning, and whether they can afford your rate. If so, then that ‘ripe lead’ might turn into a paying client, and a future source of new leads.

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