I’ve had several students approach me about how to tell whether a prospect is legitimately interested in their offerings or just fishing for price quotes. There are a few ways to figure this out, with an emphasis on asking the right questions and carefully weighing their answers.
One of the most obvious ways to tell if a prospect is problematic is how they present their request. For example: “Hi, we’re looking to do __________ in a 100,000-square foot facility. I need someone to come out and do an audit immediately and I would like a proposal by Friday.”
That’s pretty vague. Before you commit you should call this person and ask them “What is motivating you to do this project at this point in time?” Silence. Wait to hear their answer. If they say it’s because their boss told them to or they’ll get fired, that’s one thing. If they say it’s because of a deadline or a pressing matter, that’s another. However, if they’re looking for prices that’s a definite warning sign. It’s more than likely that they have been shopping around for other contractors.
In my experience if someone is looking for quotes they’re looking for one of two things:
1) Numbers that will prove they got a better deal with someone else.
2) The lowest price they can get.
A low price doesn’t necessarily mean their project will be done skillfully or successfully. If your prospect is more interested in the price than the quality, that’s another hill to climb. Chances are they’re ready to pull the trigger with another vendor and need a few bids to contextualize the sale.
Now you could also be more direct and ask them if they have approached other vendors with the same request. If you're on the phone, close your eyes and really focus on what the person is saying and how they are saying it. If you’re in-person, listen and regard their answers carefully before proceeding.
If they admit to already fielding offers, you can peruse my advice on conquering the “three-bids syndrome” with some game-changers you can bring to the meeting (or send them via email), positioning yourself as an ally rather than a competitor. If they’re simply going for the lowest price, you can refer to my blogs about overcoming price objections (see here and here). These are all clever ways to remind them of this phrase we have in this business, “When you buy cheap you buy twice.”