Pre-qualification is perhaps the most important step in any successful client relationship. It’s the first step of course and should set the stage for what’s to come. If you don’t pre-qualify your prospects you’re not being honest with yourself or your business in terms of what is best for you and your bottom line. It’s where you draw the line in the sand and determine which side the prospects falls on. Pre-qualification is about more than money. It’s about the right fit and if the inquiry is worth pursuing. Here are a few techniques I use that are normally addressed in the initial call or email.
How did you hear about me/my company?
This is important in that I know immediately if they are a qualified prospect. If they are a referral from a great client then they most likely know about my capabilities, pricing, dependability and so forth. If they found me on Google they are probably shopping around. This is good because they found me on Google but they really don’t know me and I need to sell them on my value.
What objectives are you trying to reach with your project? Why are you looking to do XYZ?
This tells me if I have the experience and knowledge to handle the project. It also tells me if I might be able to pull in some contractors to help with things I can’t or won’t do.
What is your budget for this project?
The most important! If they don’t have an idea or won’t share it, I give them an idea for prices based on previous projects of similar scope. It can be tough to do when you don’t really know the details but it’s an easy way to eliminate the bottom-feeders.
What is your timeline to completion?
This tells me if I need to hire additional help, or if I’m able to tackle the project on my own. It also tells me if the project is for real, or if they are delusional.
What made you pick up the phone (email me, whatever)? What is it about me/my company that is appealing to your needs?
This is more beneficial to my own inside information. It lets me know what I’m doing right, or what is appealing to an outsider looking in. Maybe not relevant to pre-qualification, but if they are a new contact, I want to do a mini-interview to find out why they took the time to contact me.
These are simple questions, nothing revolutionary. But they save me a lot of time by not having to submit estimates and proposals that have no chance in being approved.