Qualification Confirmation - A Key Consultative Selling Process Tool
CSO Insights publishes an annual Sales Performance Optimization Survey (SPO) of Chief Sales Officers (CSO), which provides detailed information on several hundred sales and marketing performance metrics.
These metrics serve as benchmarks for sales leaders to evaluate their own performance. In CSO Insights SPO 2012 survey
, there was an interesting chart on the outcomes of forecast deals.....nearly 1 in 4 deals was lost to no-decision with a further 28% lost to competition.
Anything we can do to reduce the impact of going the distance in a deal and ending in a lost or no-decision outcome is worthwhile and an imperative for sales leaders.
As a sales consultant I am a reader of sales blogs and books for new ideas and insights and when I came across Mike Bosworth and John Hollands's book Customer Centric Selling in 2004, I read it with interest and recommend it for B2B sales professionals.
There is one technique in the book that I have used and integrated into our strong qualification process
that I think is very powerful in improving qualification and its called Qualification Confirmation and I recommend it.
The Meeting Summary Letter, or Qualification Confirmation as it is referred to in the book, is one of the most valuable process steps in the toolbag for sales professionals selling in the B2B technology space.
Like many sales tools, this isn't rocket science, just better process. One small addition to my follow-up letters has made a huge difference forecasting and eliminated most deals, where a no-decision or loss is a likely outcome.
What the authors realised is that without getting the buyers confirmation of what you understood was discussed and agreed in the meeting and confirming buyer commitment to next steps, a deal is not qualified and effectively the sales person has no control without it.
Regardless of the qualification system you use, if you add this simple technique to your system, it will give you the evidence you need to know that buyer is engaged and interested in next steps. An interested buyer will confirm in writing in an email reply or on the phone, their agreement to your letter, or negotiate variance to your summary or next steps within a few days of the meeting.
When the Buyer goes Radio Silent
When the buyer does not make the meeting you set up to review the letter and goes radio-silent and does not respond to email or phone calls, there is little chance of an outcome and the deal should not be forecast or qualified until this occurs....but don't hold your breathe.
I have been using meeting summaries since I first started selling - (a long time ago) and adding this simple statement has made them much more powerful.
Meeting Summary Structure
The structure of the Meeting Summary letter I use is as follows;Situation
- an intro summary of the buyers current environment and frames the issues you want to discuss.Goal(s)
- the problem/sub-optimal condition the buyer is trying to overcomeComplication/issues
- this is buyer pain in all its formsResolution
- expressed as relevant Win-Themes
in your offerings you believe will help alleviate the problem/sConfirmation and next-steps,
- the following phrase is the key "please confirm you are in agreement with my summary of our meeting
The letter should close the buyer with a commitment to a phone-call to review the letter and discuss any variance or next steps.
Summary and Take-aways
- Read Customer Centric Selling, you can order it here.
- Use a Meeting Summary after every meaningful meeting with a buyer to confirm qualification and next steps...this could mean you write quite a few letters in a large transaction, so you need well written proformas loaded in your CRM tool that you can quickly customize.
- The meeting summary, if well written can serve as a selling vehicle for you inside the buying organization.
- The meeting summary is particularly useful in overcoming weak mentors in the MENTOR phase of the IMPACT buying process and gaining access to a champion or decision makers. Understanding the buying process and how to help your mentor position your idea is discussed in the the book Why Killer Products Don't Sell....if you don't want to buy the book, you can download the excellent whitepaper below.
- Death and taxes are the only certainties in life, and this method is not fool-proof, but if you implement Qualification Confirmation in addition to your current process, it will improve your qualification ratio. Effective qualification will give you more time to work on deals that will close and that will improve your sales results as well as improving forecasting accuracy.