One of the best moves I made with my prospect sales process is building out a standard first email.

Yesterday I gave you my basic formula and explained each part of the email.

I left off asking:

But what if the prospect doesn’t really answer the questions?

Ranges are fine

The most common questions that prospects don’t want to address are questions about budget. Usually they’re worried that if they provide a number, you will charge them that amount even if your fee would normally be less than the number they gave you.

Yes it seems silly, but it’s likely that your potential prospect has been burned before by other web service providers.

They are understandably shy about giving away a lot of information.

So I’m happy with ranges.

After I ask about budget I include a paragraph much like this one:

I know the budget question can be hard, but it really helps me evaluate what type of solution is best for you. Maybe you have $1000 and we need to look at using existing solutions or maybe you have $50k (or more) and we can custom build stuff for you. Even an idea of what feels ‘expensive’ for the work we’re talking about is a great starting point

A typical response is “Well it’s not $1000, but I think that $15k would be a platinum solution.”

Now we have a budget range.

Some prospects aren’t even going to give you that much information.

Super super vague

A few months ago I had a prospect that got my initial email.

When I asked about what we were building they said

Something like a classifieds site. We prefer to talk on the phone, we’re a personal company.

When I asked who the decision makers were, my contact replied:

Me, the CEO and a few others. When we talk on the phone we can talk more about who the decision makers are. We are a very personal company.

When I asked about budgets:

Well we’re not sure and we don’t want to say anything via email. Lets talk on the phone, we’re a very personal company.

At this point you have no answers really.

Oh sure, they said they are building a classifieds site but I already knew that from their first email. All I learned is that they are a very personal company and they want to talk on the phone.

Unfortunately they haven’t qualified as my ideal client yet, since I really don’t know anything about how they work and I don’t know their budget.

You already know I don’t take calls with unqualified clients.

That means the prospect above doesn’t warrant a call, which means I refer them back to my questions and tell them I need more detail on the project before I can schedule them for a client call.

Straight up not answering

What if they simply don’t answer at all?

Another recent prospect responded to my first email with:

Hey is there a way we can share work and cut the cost down?

Remember at this point I’ve asked about budget and not said anything about cost.

We haven’t had a proper value conversation so I have no idea what the value of the work is. All I know is that they want a business listing site.

At this point I need to let the customer know that I can’t go any further in the sales process without having my questions answered.

So I did and got:

It’s a business listing site. Why do you need to know anything else?

I’m sure you see some red flags here and so did I, which means I told the prospect that if they were willing to sit down and answer my questions with some proper thought I’d be happy to see if we’re a good fit.

Until then they’re going to have to find someone else. At which point I figured it was done, but this is the response I got.

Yeesh what attitude. I found someone in South America that can do the job for 1/3 of the cost and 1/10th of the attitude. You obviously take your clients for a ride and lie to them.

Good for a bit of a laugh

Be aware that you’ll get emails like the ones above from time to time so just don’t sweat it.

With a reliable screening process, you save yourself a long ‘sales’ process on a prospect that was clearly unqualified for your services.

Developing your initial prospect questions and requiring them to be answered is how you’re going to save yourself from spending a bunch of time with leads that are simply a bad fit for your business.

Don’t let them get you down. Stick to your process and you’re going to talk with better leads because you qualify them before you dig deeper.

photo credit: wiredforsound23 cc

9 responses to “Why I require my initial questions answered”

  1. Michael Avatar

    great stuff Curtis. Not yet having developed a standard first email (working on it…) sometimes that information gets brought in a phone call, the tail end of which looks like “and how much is this going to cost?”. It can be tough to turn it around and ask their range at that point.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      When clients jump to the ‘how much’ question to fast I always stop and tell them I have no idea yet because we haven’t dug deep enough in to the problem.

      Next up on my reading list is The Answer to How is Yes which addresses jumping to ‘how’ questions to fast in the sales cycle.

  2. Katie Rosebraugh Avatar

    Very helpful article for me Curtis. It reinforces my thoughts on qualifying clients. Thank you for posting. And I like the feature photo too!

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Need to qualify clients…well if you want good clients that is.

      I love lego images, finding them is sometimes more fun than writing the post.

  3. Jimmy Smutek Avatar

    I got a good solid laugh out of this –

    It’s a business listing site. Why do you need to know anything else?

    Good stuff, as usual Curtis. Thanks!

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Yeah I raised an eyebrow at that one

  4. Carla Avatar

    I enjoyed reading this post. :o)

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      What specifically Carla was the part that really got you?

      1. Carla Avatar

        I’ll just click the ‘Like’ button next time. :o)