“Should we catch-up?” “Did you synch-up with your colleagues?” “When is a good time to synch-up?”.

As we know,  it takes a few interactions with a prospect to bring him/her as a fully fledge customer. When looking at moving prospects throughout the sales process, whilst it’s best to block a slot with the prospect for the next conversation, things never run perfectly and some form of chasing is more often than not inevitable. Above are some examples of the not so very good (understatement) follow-up emails that can be used. But how to avoid this? What are the steps to take to get the right information as early as possible. I personally use a qualification sheet that encapsulates my preferred sales framework: “More Time Fixed Cost”. Let me explain.

During a first call / meeting with a prospect, we know it is important to understand the context. There is an enormous amount of information that one can gather. The “More Time Fixed Cost” framework is the way I use to collect as much information in a structured manner.

The four high level categories of questions

MORE: This is when I explore the context of the prospect. More stands for “tell me more”. Whether it’s a prospect coming from a cold campaign, inbound, referral from other customer, I need to know more. Examples of questions are the likes of “Why did you think it was worth meeting up / getting on the phone today” “What are the issues you think [PRODUCT/SERVICE] can help address?”  “You said you use [PRODUCT A, B, C], whilst [A, B, C] are great companies/products. Have you or have you not observed some limitations in your workflow? And if so, what are some specifics?”, “With the view to be efficient with our respective time, who else should we involve in the process to fix this issue?” “When do you plan to make a decision?” etc…

Of course, the questions to ask depend on the product sold as well as the answers given.

TIME: There is no denying that a prospect who has experienced a problem for awhile, who has tried to fix the issue but did not succeed is far more likely to be purchasing than one who has just started to feel the problem or to fix it. So, I tend to ask: “How long has this been the case?”. It helps assess how mature the prospect is.

FIXED: Along the lines mentioned above, knowing that some energy has been invested in fixing the issue helps to further qualify the prospect. Asking “What have you done previously to fix the issue?” “What worked? What didn’t” helps understand what path the prospect has gone down to and what headway has been made (or if no headway as been made of course…).  If a prospect answer, “Nothing, we’ve done nada to fix the problem”, some alarm bells should be going on

COST: That is a very important question. “Just wondering, say you can not find the appropriate solution to your problem, what would be the financial and personal cost of not fixing the issues X, Y, Z you mentioned?”. This is one of the ways to help put a number on the problem at hand.  “And how do you feel about the issue? What does it mean to you personally?” This helps understand how the prospect is personally involved and how likely he or she is to commit  in driving a solution into the organisation. Again, it may be that the prospect is just looking around, which is of course fine, but knowing that this is the case helps quantify the opportunity.

Putting it all together

Us mere humans we like to hear the sound of our voice (I particularly like the sound of mine ;)  ). Joke apart, we also like to hear, in a meeting, what we said being rephrased. I like putting all that the prospect put together by summing it all up in the following way:

“So, let me check if I understand well. You’ve mentioned that xxxx …. and that the impact on the company is yyyy and, you, personally, felt that zzzz. Do I understand the situation well? Have I missed anything specifics?”

Using it in follow-ups

Armed with this information, it is then very easy to follow-up efficiently with a prospect. It is just about cherry picking the right information from this discovery phase. For instance, a first follow-up would be something like the below. Needless to say, this can also be used at the start of any ensuing conversation.

“You shared you were annoyed by xxxx and that you needed to assess yyyy…. Should we further the process and see indeed if [PRODUCT / SERVICE ] can help remove this issue you felt strongly about?”.

If you have any other framework you follow, I’d be keen to hear about them. I find being structured and constantly following a methods helps covering all bases rather than letting too much room for improvisation during these important discovery calls.