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David Jacoby

By: David Jacoby on August 22nd, 2011

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Lead Qualification Process: Magic Carpet Ride

Sales Process | Developing Needs

The lead qualification process is a critical but challenging selling skill for salespeople. Ask too few sales questions and you may end up setting an unqualified appointment which results in you wasting time. Ask too many sales questions and the prospect feels that you are interrogating them, and this could result in no appointment.

The topic of lead qualification came up recently when my cousin was showing me his travel pictures from a family trip to Istanbul, Turkey. On his trip, my cousin bought a small rug as a souvenir from one of the numerous rug merchants in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. As he went from store to store looking for the perfect rug, he realized that as he entered different stores most salesmen started the sales dialogue with the same three questions.

As we discussed the Turkish rug sales process in more depth, it quickly became apparent that these rug merchants had perfected a highly efficient qualification process. Let’s look at how a typical rug merchant in Istanbul qualifies a buyer:


Question #1: Where are you from?

This question is a great ice breaker and an easy way for the salesperson to build rapport: “Oh, you’re from America. I have a brother who lives in Philadelphia!” Also, the salesperson can gain valuable information about the sales potential of the opportunity based on the prospect’s country of origin. For example, Americans tend to have larger homes than tourists from Hong Kong, and so the salesperson may alter his sales strategy accordingly.


Question #2: What do you do there?

Here the rug salesperson is trying to approximate theprospect’s budget based on his/her estimated income. Notice how this question naturally flows fromthe first question. My cousin tested different responses to this question as he went from merchant to merchant, andgot different levels of service depending on his answer. When he said he was an engineer (his real profession), he got high levels of service; but when he said that he was unemployed, he got much less attention from the salesperson.


Question #3: How long are you staying in Turkey?

This seemingly innocent question provides the salesperson with crucial information regarding a prospect’s timing. If you just arrived in Turkey and this is your first day looking for carpets, you are less likely to make a purchase decision—you are still in information gathering mode. Conversely, if this is your last day of your vacation, you have likely visited other carpet stores and are more open to making a purchase decision.

While Turkish rug merchants occupy a unique niche in the sales world, there are still some key qualification techniques that are applicable for B-to-B sales, such as asking a limited number of high value questions, keeping the qualification process conversational, and always focusing on sizing up the sales opportunity quickly.

About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, A Part of SBI, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.