7 Benefits of Qualifying Your Prospects​.

For an introverted creative professional, it's often the client relationship part of the business that most challenging.


Let's be honest, most of us would like to begin the project from the point when the cheque clears and the brief hits our desk and just avoid all that 'negotiating' stuff altogether.


Especially the initial contact, where you always feels like you're “interviewing” for a job.


Today, I want to show you some of the benefits of a structured prospect qualification system but, ultimately, this should be looked at as an element of what makes you unique, and a very deliberate piece of your brand positioning.


And, when done right, a qualification process will help you position your business, and the results you deliver, as the prize instead of the client or their money.


For most companies we do this sort of work for, it's a shift in the dynamic of the customer relationship, which makes their business more manageable, profitable, and efficient. 


But, for an introverted creative, it's a shift in mindset. 


By taking charge of the relationship at the beginning, by qualifying out the wrong prospects before you even know about them, you can stop feeling like you’re chasing the money and you can stop feeling like the customer is in control.


This is especially valuable to an introverted creative who has difficulty saying no to client demands as we often end up over delivering and under charging.


Instead, it’s our job during qualification to, not only assure the right clients that we’re the right choice but also to ensure the wrong ‘unqualified’ customers aren’t eating up our valuable resources with little to no expectation of profitable, enjoyable work.

Stop wasting time on the wrong prospects.

The problem is, until now, you’ve been wasting time and resources on meetings, only to find out the customer has got low or no budget, which is a complete waste of your time and money and makes you feel like an idiot.


Worse, now you have to reject the prospect, which many entrepreneurs are uncomfortable doing. And if you can't, you're stuck doing the wrong work, for the wrong client, at the wrong budget, with an unrealistic deadline.


Ultimately the difference between working with someone you want to work with and working with someone who you don’t want to work with is enormous.


I much prefer working with someone who understands me and understands my business model. I get less negotiation on price and I can develop faster and better project details.


But it wasn't always like that. It used go something like this: 


A lead contacts you and says, “Oh we’d love to talk about working with you. Can we go for coffee or something?”


You: “Sure, what time and where, I'll meet you there.”


You go for a coffee, it’s an hour, even more. Some people spend two or three hours talking to the customer, only to find out that they’ve got a bad budget, or maybe they didn’t even ask that question.


Maybe you get some info. You kind of have a rough idea of what they want and you say, okay, I’ll get you a proposal over.


And you even say the term, "ASAP."


And, once they receive your proposal, they say, “Okay, we’ll let you know.”


Ever experienced this?


Either you’ve done this and it just doesn’t end in a sale and they’ve wasted your time, or you go there and you find out that they’ve got no budget.


Often they’ll turn around and say, “Oh, we’re just doing a fact-finding mission.”


So, all you’ve really done is facilitate a meeting to give them free consultation, which they’ll likely then take to cheap-price-Charlie down the road.


In the immortal words of Jennifer Lawrence, "Screw those guys!" 


Basically, in this scenario, you have no power. You have no control.


There is no timeframe as to when it might start. They could literally expect you to start working on it tomorrow, which means that your schedule is completely dependent on theirs.


Or, they’ve got a low budget or there’s still no idea of the budget, which is a complete waste of your time. Obviously, if you don’t make money for your work, what’s the point? The customer’s money is seen as the prize.


We’re going to flip this perception for you.


A structured incoming qualification process is adaptable for service businesses, consultants, and product-based business — in short, anywhere you have to sell something to a client and where there is a risk of the customer (or, more accurately, the customer’s money) being positioned as the prize.


We use qualification to flip the narrative so, that we are positioned as the prize and our expertise, time and resources can be spent working with clients who value what we do.


The obvious goal of setting up your qualification process correctly is to no longer have to feel like you’re chasing the money or like the customer is in control.


Ultimately, qualification is about making sure that you are positioned as the prize.


With that said, let’s look at the 7 Benefits of Qualifying Your Customers and the reasons we use a structured qualification process.

1. Professionalism

The first reason is that it proves that you are a professional.


If you ever have to engage with any high-level businesses, accountancy, insurance, legal, anything like that, any of the high-level businesses that have a lot of turnover, a lot of profit and a lot of revenue, they are seen as extremely professional and they all qualify their prospects.


What qualifying does, when someone says, “Oh, I’d like to work with you,” and you say, “Okay, that’s fine. We’ll just go through this process first.”


It shows that you’re not desperate for work. It shows that you’ve been able to invest in your time.


Also, it shows that you’ve got a process, that you have a system that this customer has to go through before you’re willing to work with them, which immediately separates you from your competition and begins to lay the proof that you are more professional.


At a more subconscious level, it also shows that you’re good at your job and that you’ve got a system, which is the fastest thing that elevates you above the competition.


This is especially important for introverted creatives, and consultants who have to battle the idea that they work from home and therefore, they’re just some guy or girl with a laptop.


This stops that. This says, “No, I’ve got a system. I’m a business and I’m here to make you money.”

2. Scarcity

The next reason is that it gives the impression that you’re in demand.


People qualify because they can’t take on the level of work that is flooding in.


Now, even if you are not in demand, even if you yourself are struggling to find customers at the moment, first of all, amazingly, qualification’s going to help you do that.


Secondly, if you’ve positioned your business as “The Choice” instead of “A Choice” (and, make no mistake, this is a Positioning exercise), you’re already going to be extremely in demand.


As you begin to see the results of your positioning efforts, you’ll start to see fewer tire-kickers and more, high-value customers.


Regardless of industry, high-value clients require high-value results, and your increased demand will require you to be more choosy who you work with.

3. Higher-value customers

The third reason is that qualifying your prospects virtually eliminates low-value customers and makes sure you only work with customers that fit your ideal client profile.


We’re weeding out all the customers who have a low budget, who don’t specifically want to work with you, who have a bad attitude or are going to be difficult, who haven’t got the right brief, who don’t really know what they want, who haven’t got the right timescale, etc.


And we’re only left with the prime customers who are going to make us profit and are, quite simply, going to be a pleasure to work with.


Also, they’re more likely to have a longer-term relationship with you, because as time goes on, the qualification process for each project becomes less and less and less, so eventually you end up with this core group of very, very select, pleasurable and profitable customers.


So that’s what we’re doing is we’re eliminating low-value customers and making sure you only work with high-value ones.

4. Increase conversions

The fourth reason is that your conversion rates for a sale will go up.


On average, if you just went and spoke to a thousand people, tapped them on the shoulder and said, “Hey, I sell widgets. They’re a minimum of five grand.” Maybe one in a thousand on average will say, “Yes, I’ll go for one.”


But, if you have a lead come in with the right budget and you go through the qualification process and you ask them all the right things in the right order by following your qualification process, your conversion rate will go up much, much higher. (We definitely recommend measuring this from the get go).


You’ll be amazed at how few people will reject you after you go through a structured qualification process when you finally deliver a proposal.

5. Save time and money

The fifth reason is that it prevents wasted investment and time.


We’ve spoken about this a lot with clients, especially start-ups — some people physically don’t have the money to go to coffee and go and buy parking and gas to wine and dine the customer just for the sake of a “maybe.”


This process eliminates that.


This prevents you having to spend any money until you know that you’re going to start making revenue from them back.


This is a really big one for some of the people who are starting out.


If you’re still at the lower end of your industry and only charging enough to get by (we should talk), this is probably going to be the biggest reason, because it prevents you having to scrape together change to pay for a coffee to take a customer out to lunch.

6. Differentiation

The sixth reason, and this is one we absolutely love, is that it elevates us above our competition — Positioning 101!


Based on our brand-building experience, from small business, to enterprise, to non-profits, to government departments, I can confidently say, for the majority of you reading this, your competition is not qualifying their customers.


They are likely scrambling for work and they will happily take anything on. And they come across as desperate.


And, to be quite honest, the universe rewards them with bad, low-value customers.


So, since your competition isn’t doing this, and we’re building a differentiated brand through doing things differently — and better — than our competition, you will instantly come across as more professional and more in demand as soon as you employ a qualification process and don’t just jump at every lead you stumble across.


Think of it like a new relationship. You wouldn’t pull out a ring straight away because, you really don’t know each other that well, yet.


You’ve got to make sure that the person’s right for you before you jump in and commit to anything.


That’s kind of what we’re talking about.

7. Profit

And seventh and finally, it makes sure that we know the budget is worth working for.


It makes sure that we know up front how much money the customer is willing to invest in your business and in their own business. So you know that you can pull out your A-game for everything.


There’s nothing worse than doing miserable, boring work because you need to just pay the bills.


This allows you to focus on the work that you’re good at and focus on the projects that you want to work with, as well as work with customers that are pleasant and get you and are nice.


I’d much rather work with one nice customer a year than ten customers who aren’t very pleasant but have the same budget. Much rather.

Final thoughts

So those are the seven reasons that we use qualification and I’m sure you’re starting to see the link between these behaviors and a differentiated brand position.


Qualification isn’t just a tactic to give off an unrealistic impression.


It’s part of a legitimate business building strategy, employed by a professional who has something better to offer than the competition.

Next steps

Let's continue the momentum.


Look out for the next post in the series, where I’ll be covering the The 5 Qualification Questions You Should Ask Every Incoming Lead, the order you need to ask them in and why.

Just want to get the complete system?

You may want to check out The Velvet Rope, the complete qualification system to optimize your time, ensure all of your activities impact revenue, & eliminate surprises.

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Bruce White

Bruce White is a brand strategist, sprint trainer, entrepreneur, and educator dedicated to elevating the perception of value of the creative industry. He writes about business & branding for creatives as well as techniques for facilitating client sprints and dealing with client consulting as an introvert.