This month we are going to investigate what went wrong with last month’s “proposal” that Mary presented to Pam at the law firm. See the October 2012 issue of Cleanfax, page 12.

If you recall, Mary was very excited about presenting what she thought was a sure thing, only to find out that Pam — knowingly or not — had abused Mary’s time and knowledge. Pam had shown Mary’s proposal to the night janitorial company and, although Pam was unhappy with the carpet cleaning performance of the janitorial company, allowed them to match Mary’s bid.

When Mary came back to the office, her reaction was predictable. “How could Pam do this to me?” she asked you. “We are both members of IFMA and she hates the job that the janitorial company is doing.”

Mary got upset, and you witnessed the meltdown. She continued, “Why does she think she can call me up, have me come over, take the time to do the proposal and then stab me in the back? This rarely happened to me in my last sales position.”

You just sat there and listened as she talked about the injustice of it all and how she just could not believe that someone would be that blatant about it and, on top of it all, she had shown Mary’s proposal to the janitorial company.

When calm finally filled the air and you watched Mary slumping over in her chair, you realized that your sales training had some holes in it and Mary was paying the price. She was working harder than you had seen anyone work, and you misjudged her experience.

Pre-qualifying clients

You looked at Mary and told her, “Mary, I am sorry we never really went over pre-qualifying.” You also realized that it may not have avoided Pam’s shenanigans, but it might have helped.

Mary has also reached a point where the appointments she is obtaining are getting serious, and are considered her potential “A” accounts.

It is time that she starts to better prepare herself.

Pre-qualifying lesson #1

Find out as much as you can about the company and person you are going to see. Thankfully, it is much easier today to find out about a company just by doing some online research before you visit their place of business.

Pre-planning is simply using your information on the prospect to try to determine what they do, how many locations they have, how long in business, what image they wish to project, etc.

Pre-qualifying is different, in that you are asking and probing at every touch-point right from the first time you talked to the person. If Mary had asked Pam more about the decision-making process that Pam would be using, she may have been able to avoid the stab in the back.

One direct question up-front might have even been, “Pam what will it take to get you to switch from the janitorial company to us?” That question would have brought on a lot of discussion, and no doubt would have helped land the contract.

Pre-qualifying lesson #2

Both you and Mary need to come up with some basic questions that will help you and the customer focus in on their needs. Some questions could be:

Why are you looking at carpet cleaning services today?

What specific concerns do you have, regarding your carpet and its performance?

When are you looking to make a change to a new carpet cleaning contractor?

Is carpet cleaning an item that has to be budgeted for before you hire a carpet cleaning contractor?

Will you make your decision by committee, or will you be making the decision?

Are you looking for a one-time cleaning, or a program?

The new Mary is ready

Mary was already doing some of these things, but she was not doing any real pre-planning and was a little timid in asking pre-qualifying questions, as she thought they were too direct.
Now, after getting burned, her timidity was going away fast. She learned her lesson.

Mary is ready to deal with the next prospect. She learned the importance of communication.

Fred Geyen is president of the Geyen Group ( His background includes commercial product sales and program development for residential, commercial and disaster restoration with ServiceMaster. He has a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED-AP) designation and is on the board of directors with the LMCCA. Geyen can be contacted at (612) 799-5111.