Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

Adapting Sales Process for Long Term Survival

Posted by Mark Gibson on Sun, Jan 18, 2009

Charles Darwin floral image

Over the Christmas holidays I took my daughter to the London Museum of Natural History, and among other exhibits, spent a good deal of time in the Charles Darwin Exhibit. Darwin has been in the news a lot lately as it’s his 200th anniversary and there are all sorts of metaphors and lessons being drawn from Darwin’s works.

I was struck by the exhibit and his genius and thought about my industry, the technology industry, and how this closed system has recently undergone violent upheaval. I asked a partner of ours, Barry Trailer co-owner of CSO Insights, (CSO Insights is a research firm that specializes in measuring the effectiveness of today's sales and marketing organizations), what his thoughts were on surviving in the current market, and they were insightful

Barry suggested, “Most companies will simply jettison people in a knee-jerk reaction to reduce cost, but this is not adapting to the new environment. The companies with formal sales process that mirrors the customer buying process, those who adapt their sales process when conditions change, are favored to be preserved while companies with informal or tribal sales process will find it very difficult and may go the way of the Dodo".

                                                        Dodo (image C/- Wikipedia)Dodo"Transparency and sunlight....if you can’t trust the numbers in the forecast then you are hosed in this environment. Companies need to incorporate go-no/go gates into their formal sales process such that each major step of the sale is made in lock-step with the client. They also need every sales exec to use sales process and to update the CRM system on a daily basis. The competition in every deal today is no-decision”, concluded Barry. We agree Barry, and that’s why we advocate strong qualification.

An in-depth analysis of win-loss results indicates that the principal reason why deals are lost, or go to no-decision, is because of poor qualification. Massive waste of precious resources occurs when sales reps commit their time and pre-sales support resources on unqualified opportunities.

We strongly suggest that sales leaders implement strong qualification into their sales process. A deal is qualified only when the following four conditions have occurred; -

  1. The buyer has shared a goal, objective, problem or identified a pain they a committed to fixing in our time-frame
  2. The buyer identifies how the corporation decides on technology acquisitions and who will make the decision
  3. The buyer has funding or can make funding available for your product/service
  4. The buyer agrees in writing to your summary of the opportunity following your qualification meeting/s and agrees to enter next steps with you.


Using strong qualification, sellers will have highly qualified opportunities in their forecast and should close between 50-70% of these opportunities. Furthermore, sellers will lose less often and fewer deals will go to no-decision using strong qualification.

Using strong qualification may require change in behavior and some training to get the entire sales-team on board, but one of the highest impacts on performance and one of the simplest sales process changes to make. Oh and don’t be surprised to see the value of the pipeline shrink as the dead-wood and unqualified opportunities are either flushed or put back into a formal qualification process.

Topics: killer products, sales performance, qualification

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