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April 04, 2007

How to qualify new prospects

If you are spending valuable marketing time on developing a new relationship, and don’t feel that you are getting closer to new business, you should do what sales pros do - try to qualify the prospect by deducing the answers to three key questions:
1. Will they buy?
2. Will they buy now?
3. Will they buy from me?

If the answer to any question is “no,” that person should be removed from the short list of people you take to lunch, and placed on the long list of people whom you keep loosely in touch with through holiday cards and mass mailings.

This is easy to say, and very hard to do. Of course you usually can’t ask any of these questions directly. And even if you can, the direct answers may be mistaken. Just because someone believes that they have the budget, the authority, and the political power to assign a new engagement, that does not mean they are correct.

Qualifying prospects is a delicate dance, in which you want to push hard enough to see if you can make something happen, but not so hard that you sound desperate or scare someone off. Only you can decide how aggressive you should be in each particular case. Here are a few questions you can use to begin probing for information.

The less aggressive approach

1. In the past, what are some of the things that you’ve liked most about working with law firms?
2. What have you liked least about working with law firms?

Probing with these questions can provide clues about exactly how this person works with law firms, and also about where competitors are vulnerable.

The more aggressive approach

1. Would you be comfortable telling me roughly how much your firm spends on legal services per year?
2. Who makes decisions about new engagements?

If they don’t know the answers, you may be talking to the wrong person.

Again, the idea here is to gently push the relationship forward. If that fails, this particular relationship may not be the best use of your very limited marketing time.

This material was adapted from The Legal Business Development Workbook.


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