The Lost Art of Qualifying a Prospect

One of the most interesting challenges I encounter with b2b sales people is the Art of Qualifying a Prospect. It does not seem to matter if the b2b sales person is a newbie or an old pro, there seems to be a disconnect with qualifying a prospect.

The key factor is many b2b sales people losing this skill or art if you may – is due to their sales managers telling them that everyone is a customer. They just need to overcome all their objections and they will buy and become customers.

Interesting scenario if you believe the above statement is true.

Actually, this out dated belief comes from the Traditional Presentation Model of Selling since it is all about telling the prospect or customer what they need. Again, you need to unlearn old habits or old training tactics that are causing you more harm than good in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.

To stand out from the thundering herd of b2b sales people who are calling on your prospects and customers using the same old school sales tactics, you need to revisit the Art of Qualifying a Prospect.

There are several factors or elements to consider while evaluating your prospects and customers.  This factors include the following…

  • First Time Buyer or Decision
    I placed this one in first since it deals with a difficult and slow process. When a prospect has no experience buying what you are offering, then the world of uncertainty is center stage in the sales process. It will take more focused work to win this opportunity and you must be prepared to deal with all the dangers of “no action, no sale.” It will take more time, more proof and more sharing of successful roll outs to create movement towards a favorable decision. Plus, you must be engaged with the highest level decision makers to make this one work well.
  • Recent Purchase of the Same Offer
    When a prospect has recently purchased the same solution from someone else, they are usually not a good candidate for an immediate sale. There are elements to cover before getting out of this situation. Has the new provider met the performance time table? Is it producing the agreed upon results to date? How long is the contract on this sale? Again, gathering current information is much more important than making a sales presentation – just to see if they will change. Low odds and even lower reputation or image is left with the prospect.
  • Politics within the Organization
    This one is very touchy, yet, is around in every organization – even you own. Political pressures in today’s big organizations is directly tried to the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. Failure of any type will totally derail a career in any fear based organization – thus no decisions rule. The fear of rejection – while usually a sales person’s fear – is present within political organizations. There is a constant fear of losing one’s status too early in the game and being left out of future advancements and opportunities. Again, no decision rules as it is a feeling of no decision is the status quo and I will continue my status as is within the group. To offset this element you must be prepared to show the huge costs associated with NO ACTION. Then, create an emotional sense of their becoming the hero by taking action and saving their organization money.
  • Cultural Fit
    This one is one of the harder factors to detect yet is very important to the implementation of any offering or solution you develop. Cultural fit or cultural misalignment is one of the biggest reasons for failures in buyer-seller relationships – which includes the biggest versions of actually company mergers. When you detect a cultural issue, do not ignore it unless you are planning on only making the initial sale and then walking away (sounds like a traditional sales model example.). If you are looking for a long term relationship, then cultural alignment is a must. Make certain the prospect’s walk equals their talk before engaging in a long term sales process. There are better candidates to become your customer.
  • Financial Condition
    This one is the best known issue for qualifying a prospect. What is there financial condition? Have you done any research on this topic? Have you noticed an increase in law suits, liens, or credit related activity – including bad press? What is the condition of their industry – growing or declining? Here is a clue you have a financial risk to deal with soon – You get a fanatic call from the prospect looking for what you sale, they want it now and price is No Object. You have just been contacted by a prospect who has been cut off by your competitor – usually for non-payment – so beware of the easy sale. Easy sales are usually a bad indicator for the future. Always think in terms of earning your rights for customer purchases and you will take the high ground of b2b sales.

While their are additional factors to consider the above five are the most critical in my opinion. If you take the time to learn about the prospect relative to the five factors listed above, then you will have a better chance to Gauge the Quality of the Opportunity.

The reason for taking this time to Qualify the Opportunity is simple. In order for you to continue down the long sales process in a b2b or complex sale process, you must understand the probability of a favorable decision.

You only have your TIME to trade with prospects and some customers for that matter, so you need to pick the ones with the highest probability of Sales Success. Otherwise, you are headed down a pathway to lower sales results. And, it may push you into the commodity sales game where you and your company lose.

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Voss Graham

Sr Business Advisor / CEO at InnerActive Consulting Group Inc
Your Knowledgeable Partner for Business Success and Achievement. Dedicated to helping others get to their next level of success. Award winning business advisor; coach to executives and business owners; Business Growth Strategist; and experienced using assessments for hiring & selection, evaluation of teams and improving communication. Voss is available as a Speaker for your conferences or company meetings contact him at 901-757-4434 or use the LinkedIn or Facebook direct messages.

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