Qualification is without a doubt the most important moment of a sale and it conditions the steps that follow. In general, salespeople are good speakers but qualification, however, is a moment to listen.
It is no doubt because of this that many salespeople ignore this key step. Qualification does not only allow you to define your chances of getting a signature but also lets you know which strategy to apply in order to achieve success.
Anything you say can and will be held against you!
Qualification takes place at the beginning of the sales cycle, generally during the first meeting and can be summed up as a series of questions adapted to the business at hand. However, beware, this qualification must be carried out in such a way that the prospect does not feel as if he/she is being interrogated. On the contrary, a well carried out qualification will be interpreted by the prospect as interest in his/her business.
In the past I’ve seen flurries of questions reeled out as if they were being read off a questionnaire. There’s nothing worse than this to destroy the confidence that must be built between a buyer and seller. The buyer feels as though he/she is being interrogated and as we all know “anything you say can and will be held against you!” To avoid this pitfall all that you need to do is be patient, ask some open questions to your clients and really interest yourself in the issues facing him/her.
Initiate a real exchange
If you are sincere and try to really understand your client’s objectives and limitations, he/she will be able to tell and you will be able to initiate a real exchange. You do this right and you’ll know everything you need to best position your offer to close the deal.
A small personal piece of advice: forget the PowerPoint presentations and computers. Sit down in front of your client, listen, engage in an exchange, and begin the conversation as if you were with a friend but all the time maintaining a certain amount of distance so as not to make them feel uncomfortable. Once open, your mobile and laptop create a virtual wall between you and your client. Save your amazing presentation prepared by your marketing team for later. For the moment you’re not promoting your product or business, you’re listening and trying to understand the needs of your client.
Qualification is key because it constitutes the foundations of a relationship of trust that you will have with your client. You wouldn’t ask a beautiful woman or man out with the help of a computer. You’d use your mysterious gaze and excellent conversation and you’re right to! For your prospect it’s the same.
Create a qualification sheet
Now that you’ve understood the importance of this step of the analysis, you need to remember not to leave out important information regarding the sale.
Therefore, I advise you to create a qualification sheet. You must memorise what’s on it and never take it out during a meeting. The information on this sheet will, of course, vary depending on your field of activity and the type of sale.
Information needed in order to establish a sales strategy:
- The business: size, revenue, economic model, where is the head office?
- Their needs: which problems does the buyer need to solve? What are the businesses objectives? What are the buyer’s personal objectives? (They can at times diverge from those of the business) What are the limitations on buying? What are the criteria for choosing a new supplier?
- Decision process: who is the final signatory? (Many buyers claim to have the final say but this is not always the case) Who are the influential people? Who is going to promote your offer internally? What is the decision process? Is it local/national/international?
- Timetable: by when must the decision be made? When must the new product be operational? Can the buyer fulfil the commitments and keep to the timetable? Is it flexible?
- Competition: who is the competition? Are we replacing a solution or existing products? What are the links between the decision-maker and the competition?
- Budget: is there a fixed budget? How much is it? Who is responsible for it? What are the costs involved?
Ask you can see, qualification is not all that complicated. It’s even one of the more interesting parts of the sale because each client and each issue is unique.
By Olivier Piscart, CEO, Salezeo is the first free European crowdsourced database with contact details of 1.8 million B2B decision makers. 20 000 salespeople exchange business contacts on the platform thus updating the database in real time. The contacts are verified and enriched by powerful search engines which collect available business information from the web.