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Rethinking Qualification

by David Brock on June 3rd, 2021

Qualification is, perhaps, one of the most important factors to our sales success. If we chase the wrong deals, if the opportunity is an “opportunity” only in our dreams and there is little customer commitment to change, if we can’t be competitive–we waste our time and our customers.’

Sadly, most sales people do a terrible job at qualifying. As a result pipeline quality plummets, win rates plummet. And that starts the vicious cycle of finding more deals to build our pipeline, which we continue to fill with junk, and we don’t produce results.

Qualification is important to all sellers. We need to be focused on the right, highest quality deals.

In our qualification process, we focus on ourselves. Is the customer committed to doing something? Who else are they considering? Who’s involved in the process? What level of funding do they have committed? When will they make a decision? How seriously will they consider us? What is it they are looking for and what do they think about our fit?

The answers to all these questions, and more, help us decide whether we want to invest the time and resources to pursue the opportunity.

But this process is really all about us and not about the customer. And, possibly, this frames our whole approach to the opportunity, focusing on what’s good for us and less on the customer.

But our qualification process is absolutely meaningless to the customer. It creates little value for them, it doesn’t help them with the things critical to addressing the issues critical to them, or define what they need to do to successfully define and navigate their buying process.

What if we approached qualification differently? What if we created a qualification process that creates real value for the customer, as well as us? What if we looked at “qualification” as an important step for the buyer in their buying journey?

Helping the customer qualify their project might include:

  1. Helping them articulate the issues they are trying to address in a way that’s meaningful to them and their management.
  2. Helping them articulate the urgency of making the change. Doing this in a way that enables them to demonstrate the consequences of doing nothing are higher than the costs of making the change.
  3. Helping them identify the project team and the project plan, identifying the resources they need to successfully make a decision.
  4. Helping them identify when they need to have a solution in place and the consequences of not meeting the goal.
  5. Helping them get senior management commitment to support the project, articulating the business case required to gain approval/investment.
  6. Helping them identify internal and external resources they might leverage to help them in their buying process.

These are critical to the customer at the outset of the project. If they don’t do these well, the likelihood of their successful completion of the buying journey is in question. If they aren’t doing these thoughtfully, they may not be as serious about the project as they need be.

Their willingness to accept our help in addressing these issues gives us a much richer understanding of their attitudes toward us and our solutions.

In helping the customer “qualify” their project, we will always be able to get the issues we need to qualify it, and we will be creating great value in one of the most difficult parts of their buying journey.

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