I conducted a seminar for one of the leading technology companies on the planet and we discussed how to best qualify a prospect. Most salespeople are familiar with some of these sales qualification frameworks:
But qualifying is not just about removing time-wasters and nor should these be framed as clumsy closed questions. Just because some of the answers to qualification questions are negative, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should ‘walk away’. Rather it is an opportunity to explore whether it makes sense to invest together with the prospective client because maybe we could help them build their business case or positively influence their requirements.
The best salespeople blend qualification and discovery to build understanding, trust and to create progression.
No-one likes being ‘qualified’ by a sales person so we need to nuance our approach by asking open questions that uncover the truth concerning qualification elements. Here are my 6 open questions for digging deeper in a way that encourages the prospective client to engage with you to build trust and understanding:
- What happened inside your organisation that caused you to look at investing in this area?
- What’s the business case for making the investment and changing the way things currently operate?
- Who’s impacted internally and who needs to be on-board before you can go ahead?
- How is the project being funded and, beyond a budget, what sort of funding is already secured… is that enough for the whole project?
- Tell me about your timing and process for evaluating and then engaging the right supplier?
- When does this need to be implemented and delivering results… why is that date important and what happens if it slips?
These questions enable the seller to focus on how they can help deliver the necessary outcome and manage the buyer’s risks. They lead to understanding about budget, decision authority, timing, and whether this decision is really a priority for the buying organisation.
The most important qualification factor is not any of the qualification questions, but instead whether the buyer will engage in a conversation that enables you develop mutual understanding and trust.
25% of ‘qualified’ opportunities in CRM systems around the world are lost to client apathy / ‘do nothing / the stats-quo. Every sales person therefore needs to be able to answer the following three questions from their sales manager:
- Why will this customer buy anything at all?
- Why will this customer buy from us?
- What’s our strategy to win and provide best value and lowest risk in the eyes of the buyer?
If the buyer seems intent of keeping you at arms-length and obsessively focusses on features, functions and price… then it’s usually a safe bet to politely qualify out.