Avoid Wasting Time Qualifying the Wrong Opportunities
July 23, 2019
Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates
We know that sales professionals who effectively qualify—and requalify—opportunities are more successful than those who don’t. Why then, doesn’t everyone devote time and energy to this important step in the sales process?
Those who shun qualifying opportunities tend to see it as a bandwidth issue; every opportunity is unique and, therefore, requires time to vet and pursue. This one-size-does-not-fit-all mentality may ease some internal guilt when letting opportunities go, but it doesn’t help you reach your sales quotas.
In fact, while you’re weighing an opportunity’s worth based on nothing more than a hunch, someone else with a more solid, successful qualification approach may already be forging that long-term business relationship you desire.
No one wants to waste time qualifying the wrong opportunities. Instead, make the most of what you’ve been given and use a consistent process to quickly determine if an opportunity is worth pursuing. It all starts by answering these four questions.
1. Does this person have the power to purchase?
Make sure you are talking to someone with the authority to make a purchase decision or greatly influence one. This doesn’t necessarily mean you must only speak with the chief executive officer. Many major corporate purchases are now done through committees of stakeholders from different lines of business. Determine an organization’s purchase approval process early in the conversation to ensure you are communicating with the person in power who can make the buying decision.
Organizations can change their corporate structure too, which is why it is a best practice to periodically reconfirm the purchasing process. For instance, a mid-level manager you once sold to directly may now need another person’s approval to make a purchase. Or a director may move into a more senior corporate role. Keep track of who is moving up—and down.
2. Does the company really need what you’re selling?
At ValueSelling Associates, we talk frequently about the reason a problem is worth solving with your solution. You need to discover if an individual or an organization has a burning issue that they are determined, maybe even desperate, to resolve. And, you need to honestly evaluate if your company’s solution is a good fit to mitigate or alleviate the prospect’s problems. You may be surprised at how often sales reps do not stop their pursuit after learning that a company’s main needs don’t align with their offerings.
3. Does this person truly understand your value proposition?
Many executives become fixated on costs, especially if they are on tight budgets or used to bargain-hunting. In this case, you must determine if this business or individual understands the true value or worth of your solution beyond its pricing structure. In many cases, sales reps “assume” that there is enough value to justify the purchase and fail to help the prospect build a believable business case. (To learn how to pivot a sales strategy focused on price to one focused on value, read my blog, “Forget about Going Lower to Capture Frugal Buyers.”)
4. Do they acknowledge a timeline for results?
If the answer is yes to all the above, it’s time to develop a specific timeline for your prospect to realize the results and impact of doing business with you. This plan is mutually created and accepted — and then put in writing. This makes it more concrete than a verbal exchange and also makes it clear as to not if, but when, they will buy from you. It is important to use this written plan to focus the prospect on the timeline for expected results rather than just the date they will be making the investment!
Working through these four questions helps you determine how well qualified that opportunity is. You need to respectfully determine the prospective client’s purchasing authority, business needs, investment, value and timing to buy. Fortunately, there are sales tools to help organize opportunities, arrange calls and analyze responses so that the answers to each of these four questions becomes clear. This way, you can easily and quickly go beyond gut instinct to know which opportunities to pass on and which to pursue.
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