Qualify your prospects

Jud Griggs
Design/build consultant

Your time is very valuable – especially in the spring and fall. You need to spend what time you do have wisely. You must find ways to work smarter, not harder. This starts with implementing a well-structured, solid pre-screening and qualifying program. The program should be documented and several people in your organization need to be trained to do the screening and pre-qualifying of incoming prospect calls, emails and general inquiries. Building the program is multi-faceted:


This is the first step where you make sure that the prospect’s project aligns with the work you do.

Your website is more than likely the first touch point for your prospects. Through content and photos, your website should reflect the quality and scope of work that you offer. If high-end residential design/build is the customer you hope to attract, make sure the photos reflect that.

Social media content promoting your blogs and your company website will help a prospect select your company over another but can also educate a prospect before they even complete a “contact us” form. Through blogs and content, a contractor can share the nuances of design fees, timelines, budgets, minimum size projects, etc. Key words and social media targeting can help direct and target the right audience. For example, the prospect may need a large tree removed from their property. Your website can clearly show that you do not do arborist work so the prospect can move on to other companies that do provide this service.

Qualifying the prospect

Once you’ve determined you have a solid prospect, next you need to qualify the prospect. This is where you talk in-depth with the prospect to get a better understanding of the scope of work and services needed to be sure this prospect is a good fit for your company. This function is generally performed by the salesperson or designer.

Given the right parameters, a receptionist or someone in your office with a good phone presence can perform this function as well. If after going through the pre-screening process and you are unsure whether this is a true prospect, a good strategy is to invite the prospect to come into your office and meet with you. In your office, you have the ability to show them photos or videos of completed projects as well as potential hardscape or plant material selections. If a prospect is willing to visit your office, they are more than likely going to be a serious prospect.

Create a script

To be sure that you are carefully qualifying the prospects who contact you, it’s important to follow a script so you cover all the critical questions. In the heat of the season, it’s easy to hurry through the qualifying process and move on to the next tasks. Having a script will ensure you ask all the key qualifying questions to get the information you need to determine if this prospect is right for you and your company. It will also allow a number of people in your organization to perform this function. This will go a long way in assuring you that you will be meeting with a great prospect.

Create a list of qualifiers

This is the key part of the pre-screening and qualifying process. The qualifiers will make sure that you are not chasing after prospects that you will never work with. Qualifiers should include:

Timing – What is the client’s timeline or deadline? Does it align with your schedule and backlog?

Minimum project size – You should know the minimum project size you can do that will still be profitable. What is your cost to send out a three-man crew in one of your trucks fully equipped? You cannot afford to run out to perform some small projects. You can’t be everything to everybody.

Location – Is this project in your normal service area? If it’s a stretch, you may want to turn it down unless it is a direct referral from one of your great existing clients.

Design fees – These fees are great qualifiers. If a prospect is unwilling to pay for design fees, it is highly likely they are just out “shopping” for the lowest price.

Consultation fees – Your initial meeting may be complimentary, but make sure the prospect knows that there is a one-hour limit. Beyond an hour, your hourly consultation fee should kick in. This will help prevent Mrs. Jones form walking you though her garden for three hours to pick your brain and get design ideas.

By creating and documenting a solid pre-screening and qualifying process, your chances of finding a great new client go up exponentially along with your sales. The amount of wasted time in your day will be drastically reduced as well.

If you would like a copy of a pre-screening script, please contact me at the address above.

Cream of the Crop features a rotating panel from the Harvest Group, a landscape business consulting company. harvest@giemedia.com

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