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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Was the Prospect Unqualified? Or Was the Salesperson Unqualified?

Was the Prospect Unqualified Or Was the Salesperson Unqualified

In the world of sales, a prospect being unqualified or a salesperson being unqualified can be uniquely connected. Whether you're a veteran salesperson or new to the field of sales, we often miss the signs of why we were unable to connect and close a potential client.

This article breaks down five key steps to recognize an unqualified prospect and an unqualified salesperson.

Is Your Prospect Unqualified? 

Let's start by looking at an unqualified prospect. Here are five key areas to be aware of in determining whether you have an unqualified prospect.

  • To be a truly qualified prospect, they must have a need or awareness of a need that must be solved.
  • Does the prospect have the authority to make purchase decisions?
  • Can the prospect afford to pay for your products or services?
  • Does the potential prospect have a sense of urgency?
  • Finally, is the prospect willing to share their needs, goals, and desired business results?

Now that we've identified five key areas to be aware of when determining if you have a qualified prospect let's drill down into each one to gain a better understanding.

3 Criteria to Help Qualify Your Prospects

Understanding Each Area

In step one, we're looking for a qualified buyer that is aware of a need that must be solved. As a salesperson, you must understand the buyer's persona. For example, you're talking to a key decision-maker in procurement, but you're selling sales and marketing solutions. This person may very well be an influencer, but most likely not a decision-maker and certainly not someone who would understand the needs of the sales and marketing department.

Depending on who you're talking to, they may or may not be aware of any needs within the organization that need to be solved. Therefore, making sure step two has been established will assure you that not only do you have a decision-maker, but you also have someone who clearly understands the needs of the organization.

Step three is critical to your success with a potential client. While the client may have met all the criteria for steps one and two, if their company cannot afford to pay for your products or services, then you'll ultimately end up with a lost opportunity.

One of the most critically overlooked steps by a salesperson is step four. As a salesperson you should always have a sense of urgency, but does your prospect exhibit that same quality?

The easiest way to learn whether or not there is a sense of urgency with your potential client is just to ask a couple of questions.

  • The first question should be how important is it to solve their need?
  • The second question should center around when do they want to start solving the need?

If the prospect has no timeline in which to solve their particular need and no idea when they would start to solve that problem, then most likely, you're talking to an unqualified prospect. The qualified prospect will have goals defined around when they need to solve their needs, and a timeline will most likely be established.

That takes us to step five. A qualified prospect will always share information with their salesperson about their needs, their goals, and their desired business results.

A 4-Step Needs Analysis Process that Really Works

An unqualified prospect is unwilling to share this information and most likely provides you with little detail to your probing questions to learn more about how you can help them. The prospect most likely does not have the confidence or trust in the salesperson at this point to share that type of information.

As a salesperson, it's crucial to understand the five key steps to determining an unqualified prospect. To make this process very simple, ask the following question as you’re targeting and working with your prospect.

  • Does your prospect have a need that you've identified?
  • Are they the decision-maker?
  • Based on your research, can they afford your solutions?
  • When reviewing your discovery, do they have a sense of urgency?
  • Are they willing to partner with you to share their needs and desired business results?

Is The Salesperson Unqualified? 

Now let's take a look at what an unqualified salesperson looks like. Below you'll find five key traits skipped by an unqualified salesperson who will be ultimately challenged with closing deals.

  • Have you researched the company and the buyer?
  • Do you have the ability to connect with a potential buyer?
  • Are you selling in your initial discovery or customer needs analysis meeting?
  • Did you secure an appointment to propose solutions to solve the client's needs?
  • Did you ask for the business?

These five steps may seem very simple to do, but the most seasoned salespeople will skip all five of these steps. The process all starts with researching your prospect and understanding whether or not their potential fit for your solutions.

How to Crush Perceptions and Build Trust with Prospects

Understanding Each Area

The research phase of the process can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes if done well. However, this step is one of the most overlooked and most important steps for any qualified salesperson. Always take the time to learn about your potential client and the buyer, so you're able to complete step two to connect with the buyer.

In step three, during a customer needs analysis, we often see salespeople trying to sell their solutions versus learning more about the needs of their prospect. A simple way to avoid this is to prepare for a customer needs analysis with an agenda, plan for the client to talk 90% of the time, and ask clarifying and probing follow-up questions 10% of the meeting.

The goal of this meeting is to learn everything you can about a prospective client so that you can match your solutions to their needs. Unqualified salespeople will try to sell every time during customer needs analysis. Now that may sound harsh, but nearly every one of the reps I'm describing will end up leaving thousands upon thousands of dollars of potential revenue on the table by simply not listening vs selling.

A qualified salesperson will make the customer needs analysis about the customer, learn about their needs, and propose recommendations to solve those needs. While there might be a transactional business you need to focus on during a customer needs analysis, you still need to learn everything you can about a customer in order to solve all their needs.

My recommendation is that you take the transactional piece of business and move it to the end of the meeting so you do not deter from learning everything you can about the client’s overall objectives.

If you stick to this formula, you'll be able to get step four which is the appointment with the client to present your solutions. If you've done an effective customer needs analysis, there will be no surprises in your proposal. This will make step five the easy part because you will have already confirmed during your customer needs analysis the clients needs. Now propose a solution to solve those needs and put the client to a decision.


In closing, follow the five steps for an unqualified prospect and make sure as a salesperson, you don't fall into the trap of skipping the five steps to becoming a qualified salesperson.

As stated previously, this all seems very simple. Still, at the end of the day, the best salespeople will always qualify their clients, and they will avoid making mistakes by skipping any of the qualified salesperson traits.

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*Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in 2014 and has since been updated.

Topics: sales process