What is Qualifying?
Qualifying your prospect is a sales step common in almost every sales process on earth. You may call it something different but whatever the label qualifying is the process where the salesperson decides how likely a specific prospect is to buy, and based on that assessment what future actions with this prospect make sense to how you do things in your business.
Typically if a prospect is by your measure well qualified you will plan to go the full course to try to make them a customer. On the other hand if they are not a good prospect you may decide that the effort required to work with them is not justified and you will disengage. In the middle is a different course of action: you discover which specific areas are well qualified involving this prospect and which are not. Sort of like scoring the prospect. This can be a really important way for you to make decisions and prioritize sales work unless you are really fortunate to be constantly overwhelmed with more than enough well qualified buyers.
Your course of action in this middle group of prospects can be potentially productive work. If the score in a few areas of the prospect’s characteristics is lower than desired but worth some extra effort you might make a decision to work on improving those with a low score and end up with a well-qualified prospect with a good chance of closing.
How do I qualify them?
I’m suggesting a course of action with any prospective buyer for your products and services if you don’t already know well from previous transactions. Or even if you do! Evaluate them on five categories that together will help you decide how likely they are to buy and whether the odds are good to make them a customer (or not!):
- Do they have an expressed need that matches well with what you offer as a solution?
- Do they have a process they can explain for how they will make a buying decision?
- Is the decision maker for a purchase identified?
- Do they have adequate budget for what you think it will cost?
- Is there a definite timeframe by which they are going to pull the trigger on the decision?
These five categories are guaranteed to give you a very good sense of the potential of this prospect to become a buyer. And if you get good information on each one you will have a clearer course of action to decide how you are going to fix any deficient scores and help make this prospect a real buyer. Or if your evaluation of these five categories results in a hopelessly bad score you might decide to move on and spend your time where the odds of paying off are a lot better.
Here is a little more about each of the five:
Do they have a need that matches well with what you offer as a solution?
Seems obvious but a lot of times a prospect is thinking of something entirely different for their solution than what you know you can provide. But you missed learning that. So you have to make sure on this one by asking them what they see as requirements for a solution that will make them happy. Once you know you can work to make this item a high probability-sell the prospect on your ability to supply that solution or convince them their requirements really should be something more like what you know in your expert opinion works. Or if their real need really is not what you do (it happens!) you can refer them elsewhere and stop investing your valuable selling time.
Do they have a process they can explain for how they will make a buying decision?
What are the steps that will be taken internally to the prospects business to determine what they are going to obtain as a solution? You may have to ask them how the decision on their solution and provider is going to be made. If you don’t know or they don’t know it will be like going on a journey with no idea of your destination, route or schedule. The possibilities to go off track here are endless but important-who will be involved, the timeframe, evaluation criteria, price expectations and so on. Knowing this gives you the opportunity to make a map of where you and they can expect this process to go. And then you can make your plan fit the map or suggest to them a different and better way to conduct the process. No matter what it greatly increases your chances of a win if you know their process and plan for it.
Is the decision maker for a purchase identified?
It’s really common to assume you are dealing with the decision maker only to find out later you were not. Or find out there will be more than one person involved in making the decision-maybe a committee or panel. Often the person that you are dealing with represents they are the decision maker but they are not. This can change a lot about your plan to win the deal and how you go about it.
Do they have adequate budget for what you think it will cost?
Most businesses have allocated budget for what they think they need. If not it is a red flag that can mean problems later before you can close the deal. Sometimes they do have a budget but it’s not enough. If there is budget wiggle room your job since you are now informed is to convince them in the sales process that more money is justified for a quality solution to their problem.
Is there a definite timeframe by which they are going to pull the trigger on their decision?
“No timeframe” can mean you might spend months or years working with them but still get no business. It usually indicates this is really an information gathering project which is something you can decide to deal with once you know what it is and not an immediate sale. The best timeframe situation is one driven by what I call an impending event-driving factors that means they MUST reach a solution or else bad things happen on their end- drivers such as the impending delivery of a finished home to the buyer by a definite date. Or a local government requirement covered in the permitting process that certain devices must be installed in order to get inspection approval. If there is an impending event you can not only count on it to make this a definite timeframe event but you can also use it to your advantage in closing the sale by guaranteeing the buyer you will meet the deadline.
Scoring their qualifications
How good is my prospect? Let’s make the answer less subjective. I suggest a very simple scheme for scoring each of these five categories so that you may determine how good a prospect you have and determine a plan to make them a better prospect if that looks doable:
|Know a little||1|
|Know a pretty good answer||2|
|Know the complete answer||3|
With my five qualifying categories a perfect score for each prospect/opportunity is 5X3=15
You don’t really need to have a perfect score of 3 on each to have a workable prospect but anything less than a 2 is a problem. A score less than 2 means you have a decision to make-can I improve this score and at the same time my chances to close this prospect? Or, if one or more scores can’t be improved do you continue to invest your selling time hoping that somehow you will win this deal anyway? Usually time is money!
Why should we qualify?
You should know a certain amount about how well qualified each prospect is before you make a business decision on whether to invest your time and energy or move on to better prospects.
Qualifying can inform you what you will need to do if you choose to engage with this prospect. Since most of us are paid at least partially on wins this is important. If you do make the decision to go ahead working with this particular prospect you are in a better position to make a meaningful plan for how you are going to improve the odds by improving the situation in areas where the prospect shows potential problems for making the sale-the areas of low scores.
You will be able do this by pinpointing where the odds can be improved by executing specific actions; actions such as gathering better information, appropriately addressing their project requirements and the fit to your proposed solution with the prospect.
That’s how you make qualifying work for you in achieving a higher success rate, more revenue for your business, and more income for you!