When to say when Featured

8:00pm EDT May 30, 2001
Maurice the stockbroker called in early May, trying to sell me thousands of dollars worth of some energy stock.

It took Maurice less than 10 seconds to cut to the chase. He wanted an opportunity to prove his New York-based brokerage firm -- the name of which he repeated three times but which I still can't remember -- could make me money.

Despite my skepticism of any claim that seems too good to be true, I let Maurice finish his pitch. It was, after all, the fourth such phone call I'd received from him in less than a year. Each time, I'd explained that I was neither liquid for new investments nor interested in what he had to sell.

Like many of you, I receive numerous unsolicited phone calls at my office and at home from people trying to hawk everything from custom-designed dress clothing to executive headhunters wondering if I'm looking for a career change. But there was something unnerving about Maurice's calls that the others lacked.

During the previous calls -- which began last summer -- Maurice asked about the industries and sectors I watched, approximately how much money my wife and I had invested in the market, and most important, our plans for future investing. I refused to offer specifics regarding my financial situation, but Maurice seemed satisfied by the vague answers.

The problem was, Maurice simply hadn't done his homework. He hadn't properly qualified me as a good prospect. Maurice was under the impression, for whatever reason, that I had piles of money lying around waiting to be invested. Because of that, he figured it was just a matter of time before he had his sale.

So here he was again, this time asking if I was interested in wire transferring $10,000 for an investment and promising that he and his mystery firm could work magic with my money.

Before the call ended, I asked Maurice how he'd qualified me as a prospective client. He tried to avoid the question, but I am, after all, a journalist, and we're a persistent lot. Maurice finally admitted he'd found my name on a list of media executives from a mailing list his firm had purchased. I couldn't help but think about the movie "Boiler Room," in which young stockbrokers tried to hard sell prospects worthless stock.

My staff and I write regularly about the importance of developing a sound sales process for your company's products and services. That process includes identifying leads, qualifying them and pursuing them, sometimes for years, before you close a sale.

But what happens when the process for qualifying leads is inadequate, much as Maurice's was?

One crucial mistake in the sales process can lead to money wasted on what may appear to be a good prospect. In reality, the perseverance is nothing more than incompetence, and instead of spending money to attract a new customer, your company wastes valuable time and resources.

As for Maurice, after my grilling, I doubt he'll call again. I nearly asked for his address. With his poor prospecting skills, I figured he could probably use the advice we spell out in our magazine before he attempts his next sales pitch.

Dustin Klein is editor of SBN Magazine.