How to qualify prospects – are they ready, willing & able to be a client of your practice?

Do you lose energy, feel awkward and/or waste time with new enquiries and potential client conversations?   Even with the best website, personal branding, social media and marketing strategies, the need to qualify prospects in your practice and business is critical.

Learning how to qualify prospects quickly will allow you and your staff to devote more time to existing clients and other practice needs. And it will reduce stress, build confidence and help set business boundaries.

Qualifying and moving on potential time wasters is an issue all businesses face. And  certainly is one allied health and counselling practitioners often grapple with.  Over recent years the client and buyers’ journey has shifted significantly with the digital age, social media and online content and information saturation.

This means that potential clients are often educated and well researched prior to calling you and/or your competition.  

You will note I didn’t use the phrase ‘clients’ in the headline for good reason. Technically until a trade of services and $$ takes place the person is a prospect.    And in that enquiry and initial conversation phase both sides are evaluating if there is an ideal fit to work together. The answer may be Yes or No – and it may come from either party or be mutual. That’s ok too.

There are 2 types of new health prospect conversations: Inbound (reactive) & Outbound (proactive). And if your practice is focussing on both consumer and commercial clients the needs will be distinct.  With social media networking, content, digital & offline marketing campaigns & website automation etc the entrance points are many. But the same 3 steps are key to qualifying a new prospect

Be mindful always that incoming enquiries or referrals (Inbound) need to have the exact same qualifying process as proactive sales activities and conversations (Outbound). We assume that a referral or inbound enquiry is an easier conversation and quicker route to a client conversion. This is just not always true.

Often there is a greater need to qualify referrals because despite kind and thoughtful intentions by the referrer there may be no alignment around the prospect being ready, willing and able to undertake your services or program… And incoming enquiries must similarly be taken through the qualifying process as the prospect’s intentions and direction is generally unclear and not committed to using your services.

Each step Willing, Ready & Able should be delivered with a friendly, light and no pressure mindset (after an initial rapport building chat). Often during that phase the Willing & Ready steps are answered.  But Able is where many come unstuck. Let’s look at the 3 qualifying elements:

Step 1 – WILLING

Has the prospect acknowledged they have a problem and are seeking a solution?

Is the prospect willing to admit they have a problem that needs solving? This is simplifying the steps of pain identification and acceptance here as there are many steps and techniques to uncover covert or overt pain points that need solving. And dependent on your service, many prospects are like mushrooms to their issues.

But it will be pretty clear quickly where a prospect is on their acceptance. And your industry and own marketing efforts will have hopefully done a great job in raising that awareness. So this step can be a longer tail discussion to draw out the implications of problems.  But for many services the need is a crystal clear and easy – but at what depth is a variable and needs extra probing.

Step 2 – READY

Are they ready to solve that problem now or very soon?

Many people may admit they have a problem or issue but it’s in the ‘it doesn’t worry me much‘or ‘would be nice to solve when I have time etc’ vs urgent must solve’ pot. And it’s the ‘must solve’ pot that you want to determine.  There is no point investing further time now for those in the ‘in 12 months I will be ready’.   Sure you can spend time creating pain hypothesis and showing the negative impact of NOT acting now in a prospects mind etc but generally it’s a longer slog (cost -opportunity based on $$ value needs discernment)  But generally just keep  these on your mailing list and engage on LI etc. It’s a bit like Anthony Robbins principle – the level of pain must surpass the level of comfort in changing the current situation.

So just ask a direct question:  When are you wanting to resolve or get going on this problem?  Immediately, in a few weeks or months, end of year etc. You want the truth here so give options and relieve the pressure so the prospect can share their truth.

Step 3 – ABLE

Can they afford it, do they have the capability to allocate financial resources

Sometimes prospects are not concerned about fees because 1 & 2 is clear and they are simply seeking the best health service provider.  But this step is where many practices struggle to have an overview financial conversation. But it is critical to identify if the prospect is price shopping, a bargain hunter or seeking quality allied health services and programs.

Identifying this before any further time or treatment and program proposals is crucial – especially in services which are competitive.  Sure fees/price can feel awkward to discuss but it is the first objection given by prospects when they are price shopping or not really committed to Ready & Willing above in essence.

There are a few ways to tackle this. The prospect may raise the question first. Or if not you should weave it in without pressure. And dependent on the variables of your services you may have a wide fee variance (ie what does a nutrition program or wellbeing plan cost)

What does it Cost?

If this is asked directly give your range. The bottom range in itself will self-select often. If your starting range is too much – there is no way the highest service has a chance of life. Try “it’s hard to say exactly for your own needs, but my services range anywhere from $xyz to $xyz.

And if you don’t have a range, but an hourly rate or major package give it up front. No need to ‘prove your worth or value’ at this point.

Pause and wait for the response and tone from the prospect. What they say next will be your general answer to further discussions. Dependent on their response you may then ask if they had a fee budget in mind. Or you may dive deeper in services and results.

Clarifying Capacity Directly

Only if 1 & 2 is clear for a Yes and now then you may want to enquire about the prospects budgets. I would keep it very informal along the lines of: “Just curious, did you set aside a budget for this?”

Immediate Price question

Sometimes you get a prospect who just wants to dive straight into a price question. This is a red flag often (but dependent on the activity and engagement prior on social media, LI etc). So just give your range and save your time OR you may respond that it’s not your policy to give prices upfront without understanding needs and timelines. Hold your power and nerve. Be discerning in how you respond.

So are your prospects Willing, Ready and Able? They may be going through a process of interviewing and deciding the best supplier for THEM (which is your opportunity to show them why you or it might just be a Great, what’s the next step to work together.

Branding Hack Tip

There are very clever ways to minimise the price/fee shoppers in the way you communicate and position your brand and service proposition. This is the how and what of your own USP and offerings. It can include an element of storytelling into the way you position your offerings and value. It self-selects and repels at the same time.

So hold your nerve, do the steps, save time and qualify more ideal prospects

About the Author

Sue Parker is the founder of DARE Group Australia.  A well published media contributor throughout Australia Sue is a Personal Branding, and Marketing communications specialist. She works with service, professional and health clients as they launch, rebrand or expand their business.

Mob:     0416 385 779
FB:       @daregroupaustralia
TW:      @dareaust

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