Are you letting opportunities spin around in your pipeline that are going nowhere? Are they stalled,
dormant, or otherwise disinterested in working with you? I mean, honestly! Don’t fool yourself into thinking they will close if you haven’t qualified them and really know how badly your prospects want to work with you.
So what does it mean to qualify an opportunity? Well you need to understand some key things:
- Decision Process
In the first one or two sales calls you need to uncover their key goals and challenges. You are trying to learn how you can help them. It is not the time to pitch your product or service, it’s time to ask great questions and listen to what they have on their plate – what they are trying to accomplish. How can you help your prospect get from where their company is now to where they want to be in say, one year from now?
As you are engaging your prospect in this high impact discussion, ask him or her when they see implementing this change – your solution. That is, when they need their goals met and their challenges eliminated. Understanding the timing the prospect needs to make this decision is one of the most critical stages of qualifying your deals. Most sales people fool themselves into thinking that a deal is hot in their pipeline when often the prospect has no intention of changing right now.
How will your prospect make this decision? Who will be involved? Is it one person, a committee, or some other process. The best question to ask is: “The last time you made a purchase like this, how did you make this decision?” Get them to reflect on an actual buying situation. If you ask: “Are you the decision maker on this project?” you’ll find it’s pretty tough for your contact to say no as they may feel silly for meeting with you – it’s an issue of saving face here.
Oftentimes you will need to have the discussion about the budget at this early stage. I recommend in the first or second meeting that you provide a ballpark cost for your solution, even if it’s a pretty wide range. You don’t want them thinking you have a $3,000 product when in reality it will cost them closer to $10-$15K. It’s a waste of your time if they simply can’t afford this type of solution. Sometimes I’ve been told they do not have a budget in mind, and that’s OK, they may be able to find the funds from another budget or area in the company. It really depends on many factors as to how you play this out.
Qualify every opportunity as you work on them. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a hotter deal than it really is. Spend your time on the right deals and make more sales!