It’s long been an attractive prospect for salespeople to ‘go with their gut’ feeling. There’s something quite satisfying about the reliance on instinct, maybe because it suggests some kind of God-given aptitude for sales that kicks in and guides your way. It says: “I’m a salesperson. I’ve got this.”
Of course, sometimes, you’re forced to make quick decisions and doing this under pressure is an important skill. Unfortunately, however, many salespeople have an over reliance on assumptions, guesswork and brief first impressions that, ultimately, leave them exposed to nasty surprises along the way.
It may not be as poetic as having an atavistic sixth sense for good sales practice but good, accurate qualification is indispensable currency; and analysing your path before you set out can save you time, money and help to create a realistic forecast that will lay a successful path moving forward.
Get the inside scoop
Mining for much of this all-important information can take place at your desk but the knowledge that will save your skin further down the road comes from the application of good questioning.
When preparing for a face-to-face meeting with a prospect, identify exactly what it is you’ll want from them and pursue it. Think of yourself as a news reporter. You have a job to do: to find out as much as possible about this subject. Keep it relaxed, friendly and honest but keep in mind that this is your opportunity to gather information.
Great questioning also helps you to understand your prospects situation a lot better. As we all know, there is no blueprint to sales and each process must be taken on a case-by-case basis. Asking the right questions can help you to find out what they’re lacking and to hone down what you can do to help.
It also helps to research your prospects as best you can. Set some time aside to invest in focused qualification. Social media is an essential port of call. LinkedIn has all kinds of information pertaining to reputation, challenges, interests and hopes for the future. Many times, there are obstacles that come later in the transaction that could have been noted and avoided with a quick glance at a LinkedIn profile.
You’re looking to spark a real relationship; our sales mantra is ‘Business fit. Business value. Long-term relationships’. The central premise to this is that good business comes from solid connections and if you’re not a good match, the connection will fall apart somewhere along the line. Investment is better made in honest and mutually beneficial business relationships.
Once you’ve implemented a full plan of attack for qualification, you’ll find it lends itself quite well to forecasting the coming month, quarter, or year.
A firm handle on prospect qualification is an essential tool for salespeople, and, simply put, will help you close more business further down the line. A well-prepared approach helps you to avoid unnecessary pitfalls, so take a step back and take the pressure off your instincts.
About the author:
Richard Lane is a sales leader, trainer and coach with more than 20 years of corporate sales and sales leadership experience.