Within sales strategies, qualifying opportunities is often not given the total attention it deserves. In the past, “qualifying” usually went about as far as, “Do they have the budget?” It has been found over time, however, that the more qualification is done of an opportunity, the better the control the salesperson will have of it.
How Many Times Has This Happened to You?
Here’s a familiar scenario: A lead comes into a sales rep, and the rep dutifully begins following it up. The salesperson finds that the contact at the prospect company is very interested in the rep’s product or service, and reports to his or her sales management the high likelihood of a closed sale. The salesperson goes through the normal activities to increase the interest of the contact and moves that contact into the phase of initiating the purchase. The expected time to purchase is, say, 30 days.
On the fateful day, our sales rep calls the contact, and finds out that the purchase wasn’t approved by the finance department. The rep inquires as to when it might be approved—and the contact says he doesn’t know. Maybe never.
What Went Wrong?
What happened? If the sales rep were able to investigate after the fact he or she might discover what was not realized in the beginning: despite the fact that the rep’s contact informed the rep that the budget was available, it actually wasn’t. The company had been in the red for two years. Although they somehow had a “normal” credit rating, they were on a COD status with a number of their vendors. Additionally their market share in their industry was slipping badly and factually it didn’t look like they were going to be around much longer.
Having the Right Data Up Front
Had the rep (or someone else before the lead got passed to the rep) taken the time to work up a full profile of the target company, valuable time would have been saved by that rep in chasing up that lead.
Right at the beginning as part of sales pipeline management, information should be gathered that includes factors such as size of company, position in its industry, and if possible (as it is with publicly traded companies) its financials. Focusing further in, how much influence does that initial contact have over the purchase? Who else is involved? What is the route a purchase will have to go through? Who makes the final decision?
As the sales cycle progresses, it can be fully qualified as to budget available, the purchasing authority or authorities who will need to be closed on the sale, a true need demonstrated for the product or service, and the time required for the purchase to be fully approved and the sale closed.
There are other factors that can be verified by the sales rep as the sale progresses, thereby further qualifying its viability. These would include any events that prompted the company to come seeking your product or service, the target company’s case for investing in your product, the worthiness and profitability of the sale to your company, the risk factor, and strategic value.
There is also a full mapping out of the competition’s role in this sale—for if that isn’t taken into account, a rep can be blindsided by a competitor’s low-ball bid or other type of “sneak attack.”
Part of Sales Training is Knowing the Right Qualifying Tools
There are several free CRM tools available that will greatly assist any company in evaluating an opportunity. These enumerate the various factors that you will need for qualifying an opportunity in detail.
A key to the success of sales strategies is the level of qualification given any opportunity. Put in the time to qualify up front—and reap the rewards in higher closing ratios.
Click here to download your free qualifying toolkit.