Qualifying our prospects/customers is critical for sales people. We want to make sure we are pursuing the right opportunity, that the customer has a compelling need to change, and that they are serious in considering our solutions/services. Sadly, too many sales people do a poor job of qualifying, chasing deals that both waste customer and our time.
But there’s another aspect to qualifying that we don’t talk much about. It’s the customer qualifying us. Naturally, they want to make sure our solutions will fulfill their requirements. But they are looking much more deeply than the capabilities of our products/services.
Do they trust us as a vendor? Do they believe we will fulfill the commitments we have made? While there are certain things that contracts protect, they are putting their businesses at risk, trusting we will deliver on our commitments. They may be putting their careers at risk.
Do we understand them? This is not just about their needs, requirements, priorities. Do we understand them as people, do we understand their dream, aspirations? Do we understand their fears, concerns?
Do we care about them? Too often, customers believe they are just a path to a PO, and they aren’t inaccurate. But they want and need much more. Are we invested in their personal and organizational success?
Customers are always qualifying us. We sales people tend to look at qualifying as a specific activity in our sales process, “We’ve ‘checked’ that box, now let’s move on selling them!” But the customer is constantly qualifying us. Every meeting, we have to earn the right to continue being considered.
We tend to think we have been “qualified” when the customer puts us on their “shortlist.” Yet, 90% of buyers change their shortlists at some point in the process. 48% add new suppliers most of the time or all of the time!*
Customers are qualifying us, even after they have selected us and are in implementation. There is enormous data around buyer remorse. So if our models are built around recurring revenue, renewal, upsell. If we are looking at expanding our relationship and share of customer, we have to recognize, the customer is always qualifying us.
We have to create value with our customers in every interaction. We have to earn the right to go to the next step, to grow with the customer every day.
Qualifying is not an event the customer and we complete. It is an ongoing part of building the relationship with the customer.
* What is a shortlist anymore? Hank Barnes, 2/12/2019