What is the sales person’s most valuable asset?
Careful Qualification is one of the sales reps most valuable weapons in the battle against time
One of the most significant benefits of a tight qualification process, is to optimize the sales reps time and help them to focus on the right things. This means it’s just as important to know who are the right customers as it is to know who are not.
The closer you get to no quickly, the better. Early qualification of the sales process is mission critical, so the account manager can focus on opportunities that are going to lead to profitable business for the company.
Qualification is typically the stage where we are trying to determine if the client is interested and wants to take some action, it may be from a follow-up after an initial lead, in other words a Sales Qualified Lead where there is known interest and a desire for a call or to meet a sales representative. Depending on the defined criteria for this stage, we may know there is a budget and a potential project.
It is also the stage where the sales team needs to ensure they are adding continual value to be able to engage in the next steps. As Forrester’s research indicates, 75% of first sales engagements do not lead to a subsequent meeting, largely because the customer does not feel that the salesperson can add enough value to justify further discussions.
One sales leader I spoke to talked about the critical nature of qualification as a three-legged stool. The customer needs to be qualified politically, financially, and technically before you spend significant time and resources on the sales cycle to win that client.
In other words, you need to be politically aligned with the right decision makers and influencers, the business needs to be a fit with both the client and the supplier technically, and it needs to make financial sense for both parties.
If you don’t take great care in this step, you will see the typical number one sales challenge, a stale funnel. It might be full, but it will be full of deals that were not properly qualified and end up leading nowhere. A huge waste of time and resources and you will not make your numbers. Your future will be based on hope not proven next steps and results.
This sometimes comes with trial and error or with winning and losing a few deals to learn from the experiences. A well developed and mature sales process should already know in detail how to qualify in order to optimize the sales teams time.
During the entire buyer journey, its important to gain commitments along the way. Closing is often thought of as closing the final sale, but closing really is about gaining commitments along the entire sales cycle, in fact in every interaction with a client there should be an effort to gain commitment. The commitment might be to get more time, or to simply get another meeting, or to take the next step. You want commitments in every step of the sales process to ensure you are in sync with the buyer’s journey.
If you do not ask for and receive commitments you will end up with an inflated no decision funnel. It is also far more effective if you can ask for these commitments in a way that the customer is articulating what they need and want vs you telling them. In other words, after a discussion where you feel that you have offered a lot of value to the client, the usual closing of a meeting for example is to summarize the meeting and ask for next steps.
Try to avoid that if you can! Rather, in a thought provoking way, ask the client to articulate what value they think that the discussion brought to the table. I.e. “We’ve just been discussing x for the last x minutes, what value did you gain from this discussion?” Or simply, “What did you get out of this discussion?” “Based on that where do you think we should go from here?” This is so much more powerful.
Based on the above example you are getting the customer to articulate the value in their own words as well as defining next steps vs you expressing it for them. This way they own it and it will be much easier to gain a commitment from them as they were the ones that verbalized the Why?
“The early bird gets the worm, 50% of sales go to the first salesperson to contact the prospect” Insideside.com
This has happened to me more than once where I was prospecting and got the meeting and was first in and won the deal. It also happened where I was late in and it wasn’t even worth pursuing because I was so far behind in the process. It’s always best to make a call and get out before you invest too much time. This is for real. It speaks to the numbers but also calling on the right prospect at the right time with the right message.
One leader I spoke to simplified the qualification process for his sales and marketing team down to three questions, if these three criteria were not met then the lead would not go to a rep and would remain in marketing at the nurturing stage, “acknowledgement that a problem exists, willingness to solve it, and a willingness to speak to a rep”. Great example of a simple way to determine if a lead is a qualified enough to get sent to a rep and for the rep to spend time on a lead or not. This criterion is very important for sales and marketing to establish and agree upon and then execute.
Of course, there are always exceptions and caveats. The qualification will be different depending on how your company is organized between sales and marketing, the size and complexity of what you’re selling and the subsequent risk aversion of your buyer.
Some suggested information you might want to inquire about in determining how qualified an account might be;
(This is of course outside of questions you have likely already asked to add insights and value in order to earn the right to ask further questions)
Is the customer willing to share information that is not readily available? If they are not willing to open up or share information with you, are they really a qualified prospect?
Does the customer have a budget for the project? Are there any restrictions on how it is spent and when? If there is no budget, is there a process to allocate funds?
What is the budget? And where is the budget coming from? Who owns it? What is the approval process?
What is the decision-making process? What is the decision criteria? Can you explain the specifics of your decision process? Can you explain how you bring in new suppliers like ours into your organization?
Have they made similar decisions in the past? What were they, how were they made and who was involved? Past behavior typically predicts future behavior.
Who are the influencers in the decision process? Anyone who might have a say in the decision even if not formally?
What stage of the buying cycle is this client in?
What is the compelling event or trigger event driving the need for this opportunity?
What specific issues or challenges is the customer trying to solve?
What is the priority of this project vs other projects? Where did that priority come from and why is it a priority?
For more information and insights into qualifying, the sales process and other sales organization imperatives see my website, www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com , or keep tabs on my upcoming book, The Street Savvy Sales Leader, A Guide to Building Teams that Consistently Win New Business.
Street Savvy Sales Leadership offers individual sales or sales leadership coaching, workshops, contract work, advising, and speaking engagements.
If you have any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Street Savvy Sales Leadership