Tl;tbtr (too long; too busy to read):
Are you sitting in carpool line and proof-reading your client proposal? Then you probably don’t have time to read this – here’s a summary:
Craft your qualification questions to meet what you need in a client for your own business. If you do that, and leads leave, they weren’t ever going to be a good client for you.
Even though there are many small specific worries about making your leads go through a qualification process, they all boil down to one big worry:
What if I miss a good client???!!!
I’ve listed out 6 worries below with a bit of how I overcome those concerns. Hope this helps you feel good about qualifying leads before engaging with them. It will save you so much time and will bring you better and better (for you) clients.
No one wants to give me budget numbers
I think that everyone should be asking a lead about their budget before spending further time with them, especially busy parents trying to streamline their work! It weeds out the leads who really can’t afford your services and it lets you know which services to pitch to them. This question will also sort the leads who have thought through their project and have a good idea of what they want from those that have no idea what they want.
Not everyone would agree with me. The advocates for value-based pricing that puts a different price on everything based on the value of the project to the specific customer really don’t like it. That might be okay for very custom work. But, since I’m working hard to productize my services and have a standard, predictable delivery, I find that asking for a budget works best for me.
I’ve tried asking for a budget and not asking. By far, the leads who answer honestly are the best to work with. I think that partly, it’s trust – if a lead trusts me, it’s easy for them to be upfront with budget numbers.
I do two things to increase trust around filling out the budget question. I mention minimum or starting prices for projects where I can so that if a lead has read my marketing materials, they know the pricing ballpark. I also directly ask people to be honest and tell them that I can help them at most budget points, but I have to know where they’d be comfortable so I can present the very best solution for them.
The flip side – I’ll miss out on $$ if I ask the budget question and they pick a low budget
That is a worry, I get it. And this is an argument from value pricing proponents. Again, if you’re productizing your services rather than building custom for each client, you know if your pricing is profitable.
Before worrying too much about this, keep in mind that the number given on a qualification form isn’t necessarily the final budget number from a potential client. It’s just a starting point. If you do a discovery call or an audit of their current situation, I’m sure you and the client will end up discussing options that they hadn’t even thought about.
One thing that I do to avoid leaving money on the table is that I will always present a solution that fits the client’s budget. It may not have all the features they want at the moment or it may be a solution in multiple phases. But, I respect their stated budget. THEN, I also show them options that may cost a lot more, but also give a lot more value.
Too many questions and people won’t fill it out.
Everyone knows that the more questions you have on a form, the fewer people will fill it out.
Yes, I’ve heard the same. And that may be true for forms like email opt-in forms. But when someone is eager to work with you, they are much more interested in giving you all the information you need to determine whether you can help or not. Remember, it’s better for you to have fewer completions from quality leads that 1000s of low-quality leads.
You also want to be sure that a lead will follow your process if/when they become a client. You know that by following your process you can get someone the best result. So you want someone who will balk at your way of doing things to drop out anyway.
Venture Harbour has a great article talking about form length and conversion. Length is only one factor. It seems that context is much more important. If you are asking for information for a quote (or qualification), people want to answer and will deal with a longer form. I frame mine as a Project Planner Worksheet because it is a bit longer, and it does help leads clarify their ideas and think through their project needs.
They’ll think I’m too nosy
Yes, some of the information might be in-depth or seem more than other service provides would ask. But if you need the information to do the best job you can, go ahead and ask it.
If I do encounter this objection, I simply let people know that I need this information to give them an accurate recommendation and quote.
I want to talk with everyone
I’ve had more than one client tell me that they just want to talk with everyone, and then they can sell them on the service. The only way I see that really working is bullying a lead into buying, and I don’t ever think that’s a good idea. You’ll waste a lot of your time too if you talk with everyone who approaches you.
You really don’t have that kind of extra time.
I’ll turn some folks away
And finally, many people truly hate turning anyone away. It seems rude. I struggled with this myself.
Take another look at this though. Which leads would be turned away by your qualification process? The ones that aren’t right for you. Should you try to fit your process to someone who isn’t really a good fit for you and your services? No. Isn’t it better for both of you if the lead finds a vendor that meets their needs exactly? Yes.
Great. Wins all around. Don’t worry about turning people away. This is what you should be doing. If you can also refer them to someone you know is a helpful fit for them, by all means, refer them.
So, don’t be afraid to qualify those leads – you will both be winners if you do!