Sales Prospect vs. Sales Suspect: Do You Even Know the Difference?

Too many salespeople can’t identify a sales suspect from a genuine sales prospect.

This is costing you money and time.

Will all the “sales suspects” please leave the room?!  Isn’t this a question you would like to ask sometimes?

We all want to spend time with sales prospects — for that matter, only really good sales prospects — but too many times, the sales “prospect” we think we’re talking to ends up being nothing more than a sales suspect.

Last time I looked, no one runs around wearing a sign that reads:  “I’m a sales suspect. Don’t waste your time on me.”  To the contrary — they run around acting and doing everything a sales prospect would do.

Our challenge in sales is to be able to spot the imposter quickly so we don’t waste time on them.

Based on my 25-plus years of sales experience, I’ve found the only way we can become quicker at differentiating prospects from suspects is to get them involved in the sales process.

Sales prospects who are interested will engage with you consistently, while suspects will only engage with you as long as it’s safe.

The way you call them out is by asking them to share with you something about themselves or their business that is not publically known.  Prospects, if they genuinely are interested in you and your product, will see the value in sharing such information.

Suspects will not.

Let me explain further what I mean by getting the person to share.  If I’m selling new software to you, the IT manager, and you’re a serious prospect, you’re going to share with me critical information I’m going to need to know to help me put the proposal together.

On the other hand, if you’re merely someone looking to find out what’s on the market, you are going to be more hesitant to provide this information.

This step alone will smoke out many suspects and help you determine who to spend time with.

Second level is to then ask the person to do something for you after you leave.  You might ask them to review some information and email you with their comments.  You might ask them to provide you with internal documents.  The idea is to get them to spend time doing something after you’ve left the call.

A real prospect, if they’re serious, is naturally going to do this, because they see the value.

On the other hand, a suspect is not going to do something for you, because their goal is to get you to do everything for them.

This is the phase where the vast majority of suspects will come clean and it will become obvious they are nothing more than suspects.

Certainly, it is possible for some good prospects to not be willing to do anything for you, too.   However, by asking the right questions as to why they won’t do this, it will become clear if they really are a good prospect.

If there is still doubt in your mind if the person with whom you are dealing is a suspect or prospect, you can then begin to ask for the names of others who will be involved in the decision-making process — or who in their company will be using what you are selling.  Now, this step does not work in all selling situations; however, what I have found is rarely will a sales suspect look to involve other people.

Suspects tend to work alone, and when you ask for the names of other people you would like to meet, you can separate the suspect from the prospect.   Again, if it’s a meaningful request to talk to others, a motivated sales prospect will most likely provide you with names.

The process of separating sales suspects from sales prospects is not perfect, but one thing remains very clear:  Salespeople spend much time dealing with people who are nothing more than suspects.

The sooner that you as the salesperson can verify you’re dealing with a solid sales prospect, the greater your chance of being successful and maximizing profit.

Copyright 2011, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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