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To qualify or not qualify the prospect: That is the question

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Many financial advisors think it’s critical to qualify before setting an appointment with a new prospect. The most common reason stated by experienced professionals is “Why waste my time if they don’t have any money?”

I strongly disagree with this thinking.  As a phone trainer, I find that a lot of requirements are thrown into phone calls that don’t belong there. Qualifying is inadequate substitute for good marketing.  Be more careful about who you market to, who you get referred to and who you network with and you will get qualified prospects before making the call.  That is my first and most important advice about qualifying.

I can already hear some of you saying: “But I only sell one product and if the person I meet doesn’t qualify health-wise, I am wasting both of our time.” 

Yes, you are.  If you are a one-product company, I suggest you first use a short script to get the appointment and then, after restating an agreed time, date and place add the following: “John, in order for this appointment to be more efficient, I would like to just ask you three questions. Is that okay? (Get permission!)

  1. How would you rate your overall health – excellent, good, fair, or poor?

  2. When was your last visit to a doctor and what was was it for?

  3. Have you been in a hospital in the last five years?”

Those of you who normally qualify know that the answers to these questions will bring up red flags that are important.  If that flag is up, go into more detail to see if your prospect will be unable to purchase your product based on their health.  However, if their answers are (a) excellent or good, (b) I went for my yearly checkup this year or (c) I haven’t been, then go on the appointment.

Getting into long conversations about people’s health on the phone is not appropriate.  Use a short script instead, set the appointment and then asks the three qualifying questions to reassure yourself that it will be worth your time (and gas).

Below are two examples of a “short script” for long term care. One is assuming a returned portion of a mailer and the other indicates someone who has gone to your website for information:

Hi, this is Gail Goodman and I’m calling from ABC Long Term Care Company. Recently we mailed you an informational piece on LTC and you returned the bottom portion indicating to me that you were interested in more information. 

I share this information on a face-to-face basis only so the purpose of my call this evening is to simply find a mutually convenient time for us to get together and talk about your options.  In general, what is the least hectic time for you, days or evenings?

Hi, this is Gail Goodman from ABC Long Term Care Company and your name was forwarded to me because you recently went to our company website and indicated you were interested in talking to one of us about Long Term Care. I’m the person that is supposed to visit with you. So my call today is to simply find a mutually convenient time to get together and talk about your options.   In general, what is the least hectic time for you, days or evenings?

For all the other financial professionals reading this, you should be aware that qualifying prospects on the phone may get you in a lot of trouble.  Here’s why:

  1. People often don’t tell the truth on the phone.

  2. A new prospect that doesn’t know you will be defensive about financial questions.

  3. A full fact find, which includes the prospect’s hopes and dreams, will guide you more than “just the facts, ma’am” questioning.

  4. Your qualifying may turn off the prospect and cost you the appointment.

  5. “The Millionaire Next Door” is a lesson about who has money and who doesn’t.  Oftentimes, modest people will not be willing to talk about their money over the phone.

See also these columns by Gail Goodman:

Securing the appointment: the value of a good script

Scheduling appointments: Stop typing and start talking

Meeting a prospect at a social event: the right way to network

Digital-vocal-personal: Determining the right communication mix