Earlier this week I had a conversation with colleague of my and I asked him what I thought was a pretty straightforward question; “What makes your sales people successful?” Instead of providing me with the usual responses of X, Y and Z he said it would be easier to describe why they fail.
Not exactly the answer I was expecting, but it was his way of netting it out.
He stated the number one reason for why his people fail was in their inability to qualify a prospect.
Being that he works for a major corporation, and he has tenured sales folks, I was somewhat taken aback by his comment. It is after all, the salesperson’s responsibility to qualify prospects. But upon further review, I would have to agree with his hypothesis and I believe it is a common problem that many sales people face.
For most sales organizations, building a pipeline with qualified prospects can be a challenge. Generally speaking, sales people are tasked with having 3X the number of prospects or deals working to hit their numbers. The problem with this is that in an effort to meet the target, they end up putting in what I call “suspects”., aka, “unqualified” prospects.
Reality Check . . . Take a look at your pipeline. Is it real? Are there more suspects than prospects? Are they truly qualified? If you really take a hard look, the signs of an unqualified prospect are easy to spot.
Does this sound familiar?
– It’s a painfully long selling cycle.
– The “Prospect” shows up on the forecast, month after month after month.
– The “Prospect” keeps asking for more and more information.
– The “Prospect” ask for pricing discounts.
– The “Prospect” keeps stalling or gives you a serious of excuses.
– The “Prospect” isn’t returning your calls.
So how do you keep your pipeline line from being just a pipedream?
Qualify your prospects early on using the BANT method. It’s a sales qualification approach originally developed by IBM. It stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. Can the prospect afford your solution and do they have budget? Are you presenting to the actual person who has the authority to make a decision? Does your solution solve a problem or address a need? What is the timeline for a decision?
Obviously, all prospects aren’t created equal and qualifying a prospect goes beyond budget, authority, need, and timeline. But it is a starting point. Qualifying questions are tough questions and can sometimes be difficult to ask. Develop a list of prospect qualifying questions that works for you and ask them early in the process. It’s better to find out there isn’t a budget up front than to be 6 months into the sales cycle.
The cost of not qualifying a prospect is high; wasted resources, energy, stress, and more importantly time. In sales, time is the great equalizer. Before you invest your valuable time, make sure your prospects are qualified.
So I have to ask. . . Do you Qualify?