In sales circles, qualified prospects are potential customers who have both demonstrated an interest in a good or service and have the ability to authorize the purchase. There is a wide range of ideas among salespeople as to when a sales lead becomes a prospect, and when that prospect is considered qualified. Some approaches dictate that the qualifying aspect takes place while the potential client is still considered a lead, with the qualifying actually paving the way to designate the lead as a prospect.
When this qualifying process takes place at the prospect level of the sales cycle, this usually means that several events have taken place. First, the salesperson has ascertained that the potential client does have a need or desire for the products offered for sale. Second, the potential client has expressed some interest in the products, with that interest ranging from wanting to know more general information about the product to actually discussing possible ways that the product would be beneficial if chosen over other similar products. Last, it has been established that the qualified prospect is involved in the decision making process when it comes to making purchase. The prospect may have direct authority to make purchases, or be what is known as an influencer, someone who can persuade the buying center to commit to the purchase.
When working with qualified prospects, salespeople must also be on the lookout for the presence of those who could influence the buyer to not make the purchase. Individuals of this type, sometimes referred to as saboteurs, are the polar opposite of the influencer. While the influencer can be a valuable ally of the salesperson, the saboteur can sometimes present additional challenges that must be overcome if the deal is to be closed.
The ultimate goal of working with qualified prospects is to close the sale. Ideally, this is accomplished by helping the prospects to see all the benefits of making the purchase, such as making work tasks easier to accomplish, providing a degree of support that was not present with previous vendors, and generally enabling the prospect to accomplish tasks more efficiently. Often, saving money is also important to qualified prospects, so the salesperson must be able to demonstrate how the purchase saves money on the front end, and may also help eliminate some indirect expenses on the back end. For the salesperson, qualified prospects that move on to the status of customer are especially important, since these new customers can often provide leads to others who may also be interested in the products that the salesperson offers.