If you ask any group of salespeople what the difference is between qualifying a sales prospect in, or qualifying out, you are bound to get an interesting and varied set of answers. If you asked what the impact would be of each of these approaches on their bank balance, you still might get a quizzical look.
Up until recently I didn't really think there was much difference either...the goal was to qualify the prospect in order to move to the next level.
Let me state it clearly: Your goal in qualifying at every step in the sales cycle is to eliminate non-qualified prospects and most prospects you meet will fall into the out category.
The Curse of Cool Technology
The curse of cool technology is that it's cool, people are interested and want to "kick the tires", get a feel for the interface and you as the salesperson probably love to demonstrate it.
In a recession, when for some of us, leads are hard to come-by and the pipeline could be pretty lean, we may want to qualify in big-name prospects, with the hope that we will convert some of these prospects into opportunities.
But as we know, hope is not a strategy and what we are doing is wasting our own precious time and the resources of our organization - our techies and our sales management by demonstrating to people who have no interest in buying, cannot buy, or will not buy from us (the only resource we have control of as a sales professional is our time).
Furthermore we are working on deals that will not close instead of using our time to find and work on opportunities that will.
An Expensive Lesson Learned:
I have been selling for a long time, but recently I have had an expensive, but valuable lesson in the difference between qualifying in and qualifying out. One of the companies I'm working with uses a lead generation company where they serve up leads for free, but I pay for every lead that advances past the initial meaningful discussion stage.
Let's examine the impact of doing a poor job of effective diagnosis and qualification in the initial meaningful interaction meeting.
If I fail to ask the hard questions up-front and really listen to what the prospect is saying, uncover the underlying issues and root cause of the problem and establish whether the prospect wants to fix it, (but because it's a F50 technology company and I think the prospect could have potential and I have "happy ears" and book a follow-up meeting and demo)....cha-ching, I have to pay the lead-gen company $650.
Imagine how you might feel when you start the next meeting and demonstration and ask the buyer their objective for the meeting and the prospect says, "we're not actually planning to buy now, we just want to understand...."
I can assure you, you get a whole lot better at listening, qualifying and asking the hard questions when you pay the price for a poor diagnosis in hard cash.But isn't that what we're doing anyway, when we do a poor job of quaifying?...we will pay for it in the end....in hard cash.
Take-Aways: Review of Qualification Criteria
- A compelling event/problem, objective or goal
- Funding is available or can be made available by the champion/exec. sponsor
- The decision process is known and the participants in the decision are known
- Evidence: The buyer is prepared to acknowledge in writing or in a scheduled phone-call, that they want to take next steps with you, following a review of your qualification confirmation letter.