12-point Sales Prospect Checklist: Sales qualification questions

Written by: Karl Sakas

Want to close more sales at your digital marketing agency? It starts by better-qualifying your sales prospects up front. This is true whether you’re doing sales yourself as the agency owner or you have one or more salespeople.

Many clients come to me without a formal sales process at their agency. Once you’ve identified your ideal prospect (company size, industry, and more), the key is to apply those qualifying standards in a consistent way. But how?

Wasting Less Time: Create a Sales Prospect Checklist

One of the best ways to do that is to create a Sales Prospect Checklist for your agency. The goal of the checklist is to help you avoid tire-kickers who’ll waste your time and never buy.

As a result, you’ll never meet in person with a prospect unless you’re certain (or fairly certain) that the prospect is qualified—someone who can afford your agency, who has an actual project or marketing need, and who wants to see if this is a good mutual match.

You can also use this list in deciding when to bring one of your billable people to a sales meeting. When a designer or developer or marketing specialist spends two hours on a sales meeting, you’re losing $300-500 in revenue. Your designers, developers, marketers, and other “doers” should generally be billing at least 75% of their time (or somewhat less if they’re actively involved in the sales process).

How to Write Your Agency’s Sales Prospect Checklist: 12 Points to Get Started

Here are 12 potential things to include on that qualifying checklist—you’ll want to customize this list to your agency’s sales process.

1) Company Age

  • Why: Established companies are more likely to hire you, unless they’re a well-funded startup with an incentive to grow quickly.

2) Employee Count

  • Why: Small companies rarely hire marketing help, or they’d hire a solo consultant.

3) Number of Marketing Employees

  • Why: No marketing employees means you don’t have an internal champion. Instead, you’re dealing with someone who’s doing a million other things and doesn’t care about marketing as a priority.

4) Revenues

  • Why: Tells you if they can afford you. Also lets you say, “Companies in your industry should spend [X%] of revenues on marketing,” and see how they react to that figure.

5) Project / Retainer Budget

  • Why: Tells if they can afford you, for the level of work they want/need.

6) Overall Marketing Budget

  • Why: Shows how this work fits into their other marketing.

7) Do they currently work with an agency? Which one?

  • Why: You don’t want to be their first agency. You also want to know why they’re firing their last agency. They may be firing the agency after having unrealistic expectations… which means a high chance that it’ll happen to you, too.

8) What’s the project deadline?

  • Why: Helps you decide if you can get it done fast enough. Get input from your PM team on whether it’s doable given the current project workload. Helps you add a rush-rate premium to your quote(s) if you have to bring in extra resources.

9) What’s their ideal outcome when the project (or retainer) is done?

  • Why: What do they expect? Is it realistic? Can you deliver, especially on their budget?

10) Who do they see as their competitors?

  • Why: Gives you data for discussions, and you can briefly check out the competition to see what they’re doing. Also helps you understand if they have national competitors or local competitors, which would significantly affect minimum budgets.

11) What other companies do they admire (even in other industries)?

  • Why: Who are they comparing themselves to? If they expect Apple-level marketing on a tiny budget, you want to know ahead of time.

12) What prior projects has your agency done in their industry?

  • Why: It’s easier to sell a prospect if you have relevant portfolio work.

Customizing the List for Your Digital Marketing Agency

You’ll have to decide which of them to include on the list, and which of them will be “minimum requirement” dealbreakers or not. You want the list to be as short as possible (so it’s easy for you or the salesperson to implement it), but long enough to capture what’s important.

As a minimum, I’d require knowing #2, #3, #7, and #9 before you’ll agree to a meeting. I’d also include #5 (unless you find even well-qualified prospects won’t disclose budget) and probably #12 (since most clients want agencies who’ve worked in their industry before).

When you’re an agency owner with a sales team, the idea is that your salesperson will have done 1-2 calls and possibly a solo meeting before they bring you in. More importantly, they need to do this work before they bring any billable people to a sales meeting. Having a billable person there means the billable person isn’t making you money.

Question: What’s on your digital marketing agency’s Sales Prospect Checklist?

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