“What are you talking about Dave? Qualifying is the job of sales, why are you talking about customers qualifying opportunities?” It’s absolutely correct, one of the most critical success factors in sales is qualification. Sales people need to viciously disqualify opportunities that aren’t in their sweet spot. It may be a real deal, but it’s not your deal–so don’t waste time on it.
But I think sales people need to go further–I think sales people need to hold the customer accountable for qualifying the opportunity—is it real for them?
If we’re doing our jobs as sales people, we’re identifying lots of opportunities to improve their business, to help them grow. Customers may want to do a lot of things. They may be interested in engaging us on to discuss solutions. But wanting to do something is different than having the ability to do something. Customers need to qualify themselves—sales people need to help them. Do they really have the ability to drive the change.
There lots of things that could cause a customer to disqualify themselves. It may be something they want to do, but they have higher priorities. Their organizations may not have the ability to do it–they need to focus on their readiness first. It may be critical to them and their function, but it’s not important enough to the organization overall–they may have other priorities or strategic initiatives that take precedence. They may not have the risk profile necessary to successfully manage the change. The reasons can go on.
As sales people we can’t answer these issues for the customer and qualify them. They have to challenge themselves on these issues. Customers may not know how to do this, they may not even know they must do this. After all, they may not buy these solutions that frequently, so while they may have the desire to change, the interest in doing something; they may not have the ability to do it.
It’s important to guide the customer through these discussions. We don’t want to waste our time in pursuing something that won’t happen–regardless of how compelling our case is. We don’t want the customer’s expectations to be raised inappropriately–then dashed because they discover they can’t go forward.
Qualification is not just something sales people do. It’s a shared responsibility, customers have to qualify the opportunity–their ability to do something (more than their willingness), and their desire to work with us in assessing the opportunity.
Are you helping your customer do the right job of qualification?