Today I was asked the question, “Do you have to keep qualifying through the sales process?” It’s a good question–one that is too often ignored. Before answering this, let me back up a moment and start at the beginning of the sales process.
I’ve often written that we make a mistake in the qualification phase of the sales process–we focus on qualifying the customer. We are finding all the excuses to keep a deal in our funnel and pursue it as a sales opportunity. Rather than qualifying, we need to focus on disqualifying–we need to focus on finding the deals in our sweet spot, eliminating all other deals. Nothing impacts win rates more than vicious disqualification.
In rough economic times, our pipelines are not as full as we want. Managers say, “Fill up your pipeline!” That’s actualy pretty easy to do, we further relax our qualification criteria, chasing even poorer quality deals, further reducing our win rates. Since win rates are lower, the “ideal pipeline volume” increases–rather than 3 time pipeline coverage, we move to 5, and we create this death spiral in pipeline and deal quality. In tough times it’s critical to vigorously enforce your disqualification criteria–maximizing your ability to win more of the deals–freeing up time to go find more highly qualified deals, rather than wasting it on deals you can’t win.
Before I go on–what do you do with those deals you disqualify. The other day, I was speaking to a sales person, he had disqualified a number of deals and wanted to delete them from the data base. “They aren’t interested, they don’t want to buy. There’s no reason to keep them in our data base.” I see this too often–both with sales and marketing people. As long as we are prospecting in our “sweet spot,” just because they don’t want to buy today, doesn’t mean they will never buy–we need to keep nurturing them-both through sales and marketing, so that we are prepared to engage an informed customer when they are ready to buy. 100% of your prospects in your sweet spot will buy — someday. You need to be there when that day comes.
But let me get back on topic. After we’ve done our job of vicious disqualification, do we stop qualifying? Absolutely not! The customer is continuing their process of “qualifying” us, we need to continue to look at qualifying them. Through the sales process we continue to increase our knowledge of what the customer is trying to achieve. We learn more–the customer learns more, needs change, priorities shift–what may have been “ideal” at the beginning of the process may be totally wrong later in the process.
We need to constantly be reassessing and re-evaluating. Is this still the right deal? Can we help the customer achieve what they want better than anyone else? Is this going to be a good deal for us? It’s tough to let go and stop. We don’t want to abandon deals lightly–we need to continue to influence things to our advantage. However, things change through the sales process. Just because the deal has passed our “disqualification sort” doesn’t mean we have to stop evaluating whether we pursue it. If it turns out to be the wrong deal, stop! Stop wasting your time and the customer’s time. Stop investing your company resources in trying to sell it–maybe move it back in the sales process, start over again, maybe move it back into a nurturing cycle.
We are all time poor. We need to guard our time carefully, making sure we are focused on the deals and activities that help us produce the results we need.
Are you doing the right job disqualifying?
Are you continuously revisiting that decision through the sales process?