Sales Qualifying: Give It To Me Straight

Posted on April 23, 2010

Recently, I began receiving a monthly opt-in email from Bronson Ma Creative that is a funky quick read entitled “eTip” and it’s a great medium for soliciting insights from professionals in branding, communications, and other specialty marketing areas.

This month’s eTip featured a piece by Maura Schreier-Fleming that talks about things that you don’t want to hear in a sales meeting.  What I really liked about the piece was that it reminded me of a key point I used to make when training my business development staff in the art of qualifying a prospect.  One big sales fallacy is that everyone is a prospect — and this is anything but true.   The reality is that no one is a prospect (they’re all “suspects”) but a few can be nurtured into prospects.  Efficient sales qualifying is essential to prioritize where sales staff spend their time.

I used to evangelize that a true sales prospect must exhibit (among other things) two unmistakable characteristics: (1) the ability, and (2) the willingness to buy from us.   The first speaks to having the budget and authority to do the deal.  The second speaks to having the desire to buy from us (as opposed to a competitor).   Too many times in selling, inexperienced sales personnel don’t understand how to qualify a prospect — and so they invest too much time and money into an ongoing dialogue that will never lead to a sale.  While the “suspect” knows this early on — the sales person may not realize it until much later.

I’ve seen too many situations in my own company (and in others) where a well-intended sales person invested a year or more with someone who possessed one characteristic or the other — but not both.  Without both, no deal gets done.

OK, back to Maura’s point about “Yes, No, or Maybe?” (see link in this post).  Maura makes a valuable point that to avoid a protracted sales process where the result is disappointment, a good salesperson does their homework on the “first date” and properly qualifies the lead to find out if they are a suspect, or prospect.   The salesperson also finds out whether the person they are talking to possesses the authority to make the decision, has a budget to buy, and understands the criteria for vendor selection.  This is basic sales qualifying.

At the end of the day, since sales is a game of numbers — if your close rate is 20% then for every ten sales calls, the quicker you can acquire eight “No’s” the closer you are to getting your two “Yes’s.”

Sometimes, the best thing we can do in a sales call is make it comfortable/acceptable for the “suspect” to simply give it to us straight.

Happy hunting

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