Always Be Qualifying

Wait!!! We didn’t win the deal. Wait!!! You decided to go with another Vendor!!! I thought we had agreed that we were doing this. I thought we had this locked up. What do you mean you went with someone else?

Ever had one of those meetings? Whether you are sales person talking to a “Sure” prospect that went south, hearing an acquisition target that sold their company to someone else or an executive talking to a “surprised” sales-person who is shocked the deal went south, it is perhaps the most frustrating meeting you will ever had. The deal went south all you are left with is frustration and the cost of going after that deal.

What if you could build a process that much more predictable? What if you could identify earlier in the process who was a good target and who wasn’t? What if you could align your time, talent, focus and resources on the deals that actually have a chance?

The good news is that you can. The key is not to be a better negotiator, even though that helps. The key is to become a world class Qualifier.

While, we can’t make people buy, we need to develop real rigor to tell a good prospect earlier on and then continue to qualify them throughout the process.

The truth is that only 5-50% of all potential people who walk into your store, call -in or respond to a marketing campaign will buy your solution.

This means, depending on your business, that up to 95% of potential people are actually a waste of time when it comes to closing business. It is with that backdrop that highlights the importance of qualifying deals and buyers. Optimism is an incredible attribute that keeps us motivated.

Optimism, however, is not the basis of a good strategy as it will cause you not only believe deals will close when they won’t but it will also be the root of wasting a ton of time, focus and money on deals and prospects that really have not chance. Talk about a double whammy. You are setting yourself for a tom of frustration.

Years, ago in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin popularized the Acronym ABC:

  • Always
  • Be
  • Closing

Since that day, thousands of sales managers have repeated that phrase in sales meetings around the globe. Buying has changed a lot and we need to close the door on this and embrace the future of selling.

Good Qualifying kicks “Good Closing’s” butt everyday of the week and twice on the last day of the month.

A much more effective Statement would be:

  • Always
  • Be
  • Qualifying

I grant you, it is not as catchy. But this is much more effective as you will make you’re your time, effort, focus are all focused on people who will actually make a decision.

So how do you Qualify?

(While I am framing this around the sales process, this process is applicable and adaptable to everything from finding employers and employees to sales to dating. Dating is the ultimate qualifying process and I think we would all agree that the effort of qualifying in that area should not be compromised any less than at our companies.)

Let’s get to it…

I will tie these to actual sales stages in a post later this week. For this post, think of your sales stages in 3 large stages. Depending on your selling process, this process can take anywhere from 5 minutes for selling apples on the side of the road to 2 years for selling an airplane.

There are essential elements in each stage and then there are other “Nice to have Elements” in qualifying a deal. For this post, let’s just deal with the essentials.

Early Qualification – Before you propose

  • Pain – Is there an actual company or personal pain with their current solution?
  • Money – Is there money to solve the problem? What are they currently spending?
  • Engagement – Are they actually willing to be part of this process? If they are just looking for price or they are not responsive to you at all, they are not likely interested and your chance of closing this are right next to ZERO. I told you it wasn’t that different than dating. This is the most important one.
  • Need – Is there an actual reason they are contacting you?
  • Technical requirements – You will gather these over time but vital to understand if there is a show-stopper that you can’t do.
  • Current solution – What are the barriers to making a change.? Change is the hardest thing people will do. IT is not easy and should not be minimized.

* Many processes will include Authority in this area. It is good to ask, but most prospects will “stretch the truth” here you will believe you are talking to a decision maker when you are not. If you always assume that you are not dealing with the decision maker until the proposal Stage, you will be a good position.

Proposal – Actually Presenting the Deal

As advice, qualify the crud out of the contacts before you present pricing or your recommended solution.

For large or significant deals, always try and deliver this proposal verbally, over web-ex, in person, before you ever give it in writing. Once you have given a prospect a written proposal, they do not need you for anything and you will notice most will stop calling after they get it.

Here is what you need to understand before you present pricing or your final recommendation:

  • Buying process – Who else will see this? Are you presenting to decision makers or do you have to sell through one of their people?
  • Reaffirm Budget
  • Criteria for decision-making – What is most important?
  • Competition
  • Timeline for making a Decision

Once presented get feedback so you can make all necessary edits before you send it. Remember, once you send a written proposal or pricing, they don’t need you for anything else and will assume they have your best deal. Even if you are just delivering budget pricing, you do it in writing, you have given away your leverage.

Get Direct and Specific Feedback

Stack-rank against completion

What else do they want to see?

Did this meet their needs?

Are we wining?

Negotiation – Between Proposing and Closing the Deal.

Congrats, they have verbally told you they are moving forward. Most people rest on this and forget to keep qualifying. It is Amazing how many done deals get blown up at this stage. This is preventable. Let’s look at how to keep qualifying and minimize the amount of surprises.

Engagement – We qualify this in the beginning. Define the process, timeline and milestones. Make sure you assign you and them tasks. Are people hitting their timelines?

Competition – Do they have a current vendor? Does their current vendor get a chance to keep the business? Are they moving down this road with multiple vendors?

What are the big issues to be ironed out in legal, roll-out, customization, etc.

Transition to implementation – Are they willing to start to take ownership of the roll-out?

A rigorous qualifying program is not easy and sometimes as we all want to believe the best about every deal, every prospect and that everyone is being completely up-front with us all the time.

The evidence would point out that they are not. While a good, disciplined and rigorous qualifying process is not a magic wand or a silver bullet, it is the best think you can do to make sure your time, talent, resources , money and attention are focused on the deals that actually have the best chance to close and that is why you are in business in the first place.

You want to get the deal closed…





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