Suspect? Prospect? Account? Defining your sales progress.

"You are never a loser until you quit trying."
Mike Ditka
It is often asked:  when does one stop calling after they’ve tried calling so many times without success or at least a returned call?  My thoughts are simple:  if you are calling, calling and calling and you aren't getting a response, it should tell you that you haven't done your research aka homework.  People will only buy if there is a need.  If you haven't uncovered a specific need that your product or service can address, then you will call until you're told to get lost ... or you give up .... or your manager asks you why same has been on your prospect list for so long.  Initially, all leads, cold calls, etc. are "Suspects".  Before you turn them into a "Prospect"  you should be able to answer why they are a prospect?  What tipped you off to make you confident that they would buy from you?  If you cannot answer that, they are still a "Suspect".  If you haven't had a scheduled appointment with a decision maker to uncover a need, they are still a "Suspect".  If you marketing department or web gave it to you as a lead that has not been followed up on, even if there were specific inquiries, they are still a "Suspect".

If you have had a chance to sit down with a decision maker and ask them qualifying questions you have a "Prospect".  In other words you have qualified them as a prospect:

  • They have said they're going to buy your product or service     
  • They have budget allocated
  • They have a time line established for purchase or engaging service
  • They have developed a criteria on how they are going to award the business
  • There are business, industry or government factors that are advancing their decision:

1.      There is a deadline

2.      There is a project

3.      There are business advantages for them to make the decision

4.      There may be a penalty if they don’t act on a) by b)

5.      Your organization can help meet, avoid, eliminate 1 to 4.

6.      You understand 1 to 5.

If you are not talking to the "Decision Maker" (the person who can sign the cheque or agreement) then you are still in "Suspect" mode.  This is because this person has been assigned to gather information, gather quotes, price shop, etc.  It would be only move beyond "Suspect" to "Prospect" if you can validate that they can make recommendations that will be acted upon. 

Once the "Prospect" has been identified, then you should determine what will make them buy from you to become an "Account".  In order for this to happen you can answer:

  • What they like about your product, company, solution, service
  • Who might also be part of the decision making process (i.e. committee, board of directors, executive, manager)?
  • You understand their needs and you have provided a proposal, bid, letter outlining what it is they are asking for and what you are addressing
  • You have asked how, who, what are the decision making criteria

·   They can afford your solution, service, product or you have carved out a way that they can afford it by looking at financial landscape.

·   They can sign on the dotted line today

  • You have scheduled and performed a demonstration, trial, beta test, and/or review of their needs in person with them confirming that you have understood what they are looking for
  • You understand whether they understand what they are buying or simply doing research in case it comes up in the future (which relegates them back to the "Suspect" pile)
  • They have a budget, enough money, to spend on what you are proposing?
  • They are budgeting for the future and you have diarized to follow up in a specific time frame to move them from "Suspect" to "Prospect"
  • They agree that you are being considered because you  

1.      Understand the problem(s) they will encounter if they do not move forward

2.      Understand how this solution, service, product will help them by itemizing
         their specific  "Benefits":

ü  solve administrative headaches

ü  streamline process

ü  fix problems

ü  increase employee morale

ü  make them more competitive

ü  increase reputation or brand

If they agree to sign, purchase, agree to your proposal, you have ONLY then established an "Account" ….. BUT only after you have taken into consideration your organizations policies and ability to serve/delivery/meet the demand to deliver:

a)      Deposit

b)      Credit Application

c)      Agreement Terms

d)      Service Level Agreements

e)      Operational readiness

f)       Resources assembled

g)      Product Availability

h)     Warranties

i)       Approved price concessions

j)       The executive sponsor from the "Account" who will help you implement

k)      Authored an Implementation Plan (if applicable) with all the people who have to be involved assigned tasks, responsibilities, time lines


Before you start to get up and run out to scream to the world that you've "got it" there is one important thing that you must do:

1.   Schedule a follow up to ensure they are happy with what was promised, delivered, agreed to.  Based on that you may have to:

Ø  Review the promises made together with “Account”

Ø  Fix any issues that have been identified

Ø  Understand how the short comings impacted their business (time to market, competitiveness, serving their customers, lost revenue, lost new business, etc.)

Ø  Address those issues with your operations, resources

Ø  Collaborate with operations BEFORE you offer any discounts, refunds,

Ø  Follow up that those issues have been fixed to their satisfaction

Ø  Ask for a testimonial for your website, quotes for your other proposals, references

Ø  Ask for a referral only then

When you attend the scheduled follow up review, you may want to have two follow ups:  1) with the person who agreed to the purchase; then 2) the people who have been impacted by this new product, service, solution.

If you are truly really lucky, you will turn this "Account" into a "Partner" ... but I'll leave that for another day.  You have some homework to do right now. 


"Happy customers are repeat customers ... and repeat customers refer you to their friends, colleagues, business associates and relatives"

Jeannette Marshall
Comments?  Feel free to provide your feedback ... did this help you?  Do you agree with this post?  Do you have additional tips or tricks that help you better qualify to ensure success? 
Of course, sharing also helps if others can learn and is greatly appreciated!