On a recent tour of small business owners who were friends and clients the subject of ” qualifying out ” of prospects and customers came up again and again.

None of them had so many customers or prospects that they could afford to part company with them unnecessarily or ignore them  but all of them needed to spend their precious time with the right people.

It is sometimes hard to recognise and accept that there are some prospects that you don’t want as customers and some customers that you don’t want to keep any more.

The first discussion was mainly about qualifying out prospects and there was a debate as to whether ” sales ” were putting enough effort into the production of proposals for some clients. There was a feeling that more information about the company should be included and more of it  as ” templates ” . In fact what ” sales ” were doing was identifying some prospects as ” not very suitable” for the company and spending the minimum amount of time in putting proposals back to them. Sales also admitted that some ” templates ” needed updating and that there had been no time to do so.

Actually, generally speaking, I am against the use of templates for proposals although I will tolerate them for general background information about the company and it’s products and services. The problem with templates is that they lead to laziness and a failure to express and meet the real needs and requirements of the prospects.

I actually thought that sales were doing almost exactly the right thing by qualifying out of certain prospects. To do this takes experience and
” balls “.  You have to know what the ” right prospect ” looks like. The easiest way to do this might be by thinking about existing customers who are ” the right profile “. You also need to have in mind a standard list of qualification criteria like ” S.C.O.T.S.M.A.N. ” which stands for qualifying based around:

– Solution ( Do you have the right solution )

– Competition ( How much and who are they )

– Originality ( Do you have a fairly unique solution )

– Timescale ( Is there one ? What is it ? Does it fit ? )

– Size ( Does the size of the deal suit you/your company ? )

– Money ( Is there a budget ? )

– Authority ( Does the person/people you are talking to have the authority to make the decision )

– Need ( Is there an actual need ? )

See this link for a quick overview


The other time for considering whether to qualify out is when you have a customer that is causing you too much hassle, costing too much or not paying. This was the subject of a couple of the conversations. Again it was tough making a decision to let a customer go but again I felt that it was the right decision.

We also discussed how ” merging in ” with your clients can pay dividends. My story on this is that when I was at Memorex – Telex we always wore blue suits and white shirts with conservative ties whoever we went to see. However, when I went to work for Fibernet my boss, Charles, used to dress appropriately for the particular customer or prospect that he was going to see. In particular the suits were put away when visiting Bodyshop – who tended to dress a lot more casually.