Do not rate prospects you’re marketing to, keep these in a prospecting bucket. Do not rate prospects who have only scheduled the first sales conversation.
Only rate prospects with whom you’ve had at least one actual sales conversation.
Apply points as you uncover information and/or as things change. This lets you rate prospects throughout the process.
Add one point for each positive factor as you uncover it—as long as it’s real information. No guessing.
Remove those positive points for any factors that change to a negative situation. (Examples below.)
Apply the negative point only when needed. Use just one negative point at any given time.
Each factor is worth just one positive point.
- Prospect has and sees needs, wants and interests you can meet. (This is the most basic positive point. If you cannot give a prospect this point, take it out of the sales pipeline.)
- Prospect places high priority on meeting those needs, wants, and interests.
- You know the prospect’s decision process and you’re speaking with all of the key players.
- At least one person you’re selling to has direct control over existing budget, or has authority to create budget.
- The timing is right.
Optional positive point: The prospect told you that you’re one of the strongest contenders for the business.
This is point is optional because in many industries it’s unusual to have this information. In some cases, asking where you stand can even backfire. If that rings true for your industry, leave this factor out of your rating system. You have five possible positive points.
One Negative Point
Only one negative point can be applied to a prospect’s rating at any given time.
The reason can vary per prospect (do not try to define options, leave this open). The reason can be based on your gut feeling—which does have a role in selling. And the reason may change over time. Examples:
- Prospect raised a lot of objections, or kept going back to the same objection.
- You have a feeling the prospect isn’t being fully honest with you.
- Prospect is slow to respond or is suddenly ghosting you (not responding to text, email or voicemail).
- The organization is going through structural or other business changes.
- This is a first-time purchase, or they usually use in-house resources, or they usually use a vendor who is not available.
How to apply the rating system (with examples)
Analyze and rate the prospect after each sales conversation. Add or subtract points as you uncover the information or as things change throughout the sale. For example:
Has and sees wants and needs you can meet:
This is a very basic issue. If a new prospect doesn’t see wants/needs the deal does not belong in the pipeline: remove it and note why. This also applies to existing deals in the pipeline. Sometimes things change and prospects no longer see that need at all. When this happens, remove from pipeline and note why.
The prospect told you he places a high priority on meeting the need. Add this point. He later mentions he’s working fewer hours because his daughter needs his help. Subtract the point because his priorities are now elsewhere (as they should be).
Decision process and players point:
You know what their decision process is, and who the players are. You asked to meet with key players and that meeting is scheduled. Add this point.
You have not yet asked about their decision process. Do not add this point. You later learn about their decision process. There is more than one key player. You’ve spoken with one of them but have not yet spoken with the others. Do not add this point until you have.
You know their decision process, but their process does not allow you to talk with those making the decision. Do not add this point.
Prospect says budget is not yet approved but is in process. Do not add this point until budget is approved.
Budget is approved but prospect is not sure it will be enough. Up to you whether to add this point.
The prospect said budget is approved and under her control. Add one point for this factor. If that person leaves the company or gets a new boss, and if you have not yet confirmed things are still moving forward, subtract this point.
Prospect’s timing for making a decision and moving forward makes sense. Add this point. Prospect’s timing is much longer than is typical. Do not add this point.
The prospect’s timing for moving forward with whatever gets you paid is about six months in the future. This is normal for your industry. Add this point. Later you learn they’ve moved their timeframe out three additional months. Subtract the point for this factor.
You’re a strong contender (optional to include in your rating system):
The decision is to be made by a task force. At your most recent meeting, the group said you are one of the top two out of six in consideration. Add one positive point.
The prospect’s rating has a negative point due to lack of communication from your key contact. Key contact gets back in touch. Remove the negative point. Same key contact mentions he’s looking for a new role in the company. Negative point gets factored into rating again, but for a different reason.
Tip: Use a comments field to note what the negative point is for. Be sure to update comments over time.
At any time you wish to rate prospects
- Add positive points
- Subtract one negative point as applicable
The greater the total points, the higher the probability of closing this business.
However, the nature of the negative point can certainly affect this rating. It only takes one pandemic, one major leadership change, one scandal to overwhelm the positives.
This rating system helps you identify where you want to expend the most energy or effort. But its power is only as good as your ability to use actual received information or data. To strengthen that ability, analyze and rate each prospect some time after each sales conversation—hours or even a day or two afterward.
How to add projected close date and dollars
Sometimes a rating system also needs projected close dates and dollar value.
The dollar value:
- Show an estimated amount until you have more specific information
- Show that more specific dollar amount when you know it
Projected close date:
You may need to define “close” more specifically. Examples:
- It’s the date prospects say they will make their decision
- It’s the date the contract is projected to begin
- It’s the date the deposit or first payment would be received
Make sure the whole sales team uses the same definition. And, as with all other factors, base the date on information received direct from the prospect.