The dangers of prequalifying

July 31, 2023
If you go into a sale smiling, prepared, and expecting positive results, more often than not you will get what you’ve planned for. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

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There is an old story about a lonely traveler who comes to the crest of a hill overlooking a small village. The traveler asks an old man sitting by the side of the road “What are the people like in this village?” The old man says that this is a wonderful town, and the people are great. So, the traveler put on his happy face and headed into town. A week later the not-so-lonely traveler, sees the old man and says, “You were right. The people are great, and I will settle down here."  

The next day another traveler sees a different old man outside the same village and asks what the people are like in this town. This old man says this place is terrible, so be careful. They are mean and will rob you blind. This traveler puts his head down, gets a gruff look on his face, and slinks into town. Two days later the second traveler is seen running from the village yelling that, "Yes, this village is awful." 

Same town, same people, same opportunity for friendship  — except traveler number one went in smiling, looking for happiness and friendship and traveler number two went in expecting the exact opposite. 

Sales calls are no different. 

Keeping an open mind

Have you heard about the brand-new mobile jobber who was visiting their assigned customer accounts for the first time? The new mobile jobber was all fired-up and excited to get selling. They had the perfect positive mental attitude. 

They were making these calls with their district manager (DM) who was well aware of and had an opinion about all the customers in this particular area. 

As they made their sales calls on that first field day the DM would help the new mobile jobber prepare for each call with samples, literature, an opinion of each facility, and sometimes a comment or two about the individuals in that shop. 

The opinions ranged from, “This is a great shop with lots of good customers,” or unfortunately, “This shop has a negative vibe going on, and we’ve never done well here.” And some pre-call opinions were really negative like, “This shop has nothing but deadbeats and payment skippers, so let’s be careful who we sell to here.” 

In reality, this DM has set pre-call expectations in the new mobile’s mind before they even walked in the door. This is beyond terrible sales training and hopefully, this DM will not be in their position long. The DM effectively killed off the new mobile’s positive mental attitude little by little with every negative customer review. 

Prequalifying a sales call whether positively or negatively is setting yourself up for failure in so many ways. 

Positive prequalification 

If you walk in the door overconfidently you risk making mistakes that can cost you this sale and maybe even the customer to the competition. 

For example, you’re heading to see a customer who you like, and they have always supported you. You’re going to be presenting something big and walking in the door, you are sure you have a lock on this order. In fact, you are so sure of yourself that you have not totally thought through the demonstration. You’re not up to snuff with the features and benefits of the product, you’re not set with the pricing scenarios, and you haven’t really thought through the closing technique that will fit this situation and this customer the best. 

So, you walk in, less than perfectly prepared, thinking this is going to be a successful slam-dunk sale and the event goes downhill quickly. The prospect is expecting a first-class presentation and is disappointed with your casualness from the start. They are asking you questions that would have been easy to answer had you prepared correctly but instead you fumble around looking for the answers. These questions and objections could have been answered in a professional feature, advantage, benefit presentation, but now you have dropped the ball. This customer was looking forward to making this big purchase and they had planned to buy it from you. You have now disappointed and aggravated your good customer. You go outside and get back in your truck wondering what happened. 

It's simple. You prequalified this call as an easy sale. You didn’t prepare properly and now you lost the sale to the competition and have no one to blame except the person you see in your rearview mirror.  

Negative prequalification

The other side of prequalifying a call is just as deadly. 

It’s no different than high school. You wanted to ask someone out that you had your eye on but were sure they would turn you down. There were lots of potential negative reasons: I’m not a sports star, I’m too tall, I’m too short, I don’t have a cool car, my family is not well off, and on and on. 

So you finally get up the courage, fumble through your date request and you are crushed when you get the negative answer you expected. 

With the negative thoughts the DM planted in the new mobile’s head during the initial field training, they have pretty well set this newbie up for failure from the start. 

If you walk in the door of a business smiling, prepared, and expecting positive results, more often than not you will get what you’ve planned for. 

There are lots of stories about salespeople negatively prequalifying sales encounters. Some are true and some are made up. Like the one about the store salesperson who treated an old man driving a beat-up F-150 pickup poorly assuming he had no money to buy anything nice. Who then turned out to be Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, and one of the world’s richest individuals. He just liked driving his old F-150. 

Approach every call with the seriousness it deserves and every customer with a smile and a positive mental attitude. Whether the customer is smiling or frowning it shouldn’t really matter. Just be a Boy (or Girl) Scout and be prepared and expect success. Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesperson and not the attitude of the prospect. 

Now, go sell something! 

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