Step 1 prequalify every lead

If you've financed the purchase of a home, you know that realtors usually require prospective buyers to be prequalified or even preap-proved for a loan before showing them property. As one realtor says, "It's standard for realtors to ask clients to obtain loan preapproval at the start of the relationship. I want to know that they are serious and that they are looking in the right price range before I invest my time and theirs in the search."

Guerrilla consultants view the prequalification step as similarly critical. When a client asks you to bid on a project, pat yourself on the back—your marketing is working. Then take a deep breath and ask the following nine questions before proceeding. The answers will help you decide whether to pursue the lead.

► What You Need to Know before You Proceed

1. Can the client clearly articulate the objectives and anticipated benefits of the project? An ill-defined project signals that the client is not yet far enough into internal deliberations about the project, which can readily result in a longer sales cycle and a high likelihood that objectives and scope will shift in the middle of the proposal development process. If the client cannot explain why the project needs to be completed now, it is a telltale sign of a poorly defined plan.

2. Has the project been approved and funded? If the project doesn't have approval and funding, or there's no specific timetable for funding, the project doesn't yet exist. Help the client understand that these decisions must be made before you can participate in the effort; you may want to suggest strategies for getting the necessary approvals.

3. Who is the client sponsor? And, whose problem is it? Find out who the leading advocate for the project is and whom it will affect. If the project crosses boundaries between departments, territorial disputes may need resolution for the project to succeed.

4. Who is calling the shots? The number one waste of consultants' time and money is negotiating with those who can't make final decisions. If you won't have access to the decision maker(s) throughout the proposal process and the project, you will never know whether you are responding to the client's needs. Even if the client is using a group or committee to select the consultant, it's essential to discuss the details of the project with the ultimate decision maker(s). If that access will not be available, you might want to pass on the opportunity.

5. Is a consultant-selection process in place? Even though most clients answer yes to this question, a rational decision-making

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