Rule #33 – Qualify, Qualify, Qualify

In addition to good probing skills during the early stages of the sales cycle, qualification skills are fundamental to effective selling. Many a deal has moved down the sales cycle commanding people resources, time and money only to find that the prospect is not fully qualified. I find this a problem in even the most technically savvy and sophisticated Silicon Valley enterprise sales organizations. In our rush to sell and close, we make qualification assumptions only to be surprised later. Like the “Location, Location, Location” mantra in the real estate industry, “Qualify, Qualify, Qualify” is a fundamental principle in effective selling.

In terms of sales prospect qualification, early in all sales situations know the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. A simple way to track all aspects of effective qualification is to simply track these 6 Qualifying points. Let’s break it down. QualifySmall

    1. Who are the People and Competition? You need to understand who are the key contacts that will affect the sale. Rule #34 “Make a Player Chart” will dig into this deeper. Additionally, you need to understand who you’re up against competitively. Key questions to ask to uncover this during discovery/probing calls are:
    What’s the process for making a decision on this and who would be involved?
    Who are the other companies you are talking to and what’s your decision criteria for vendor selection?

    2. What is the Opportunity? You the sales person need to be asking yourself just what is the real opportunity here. Is there a defined project? Is there an application fit? Is there a compelling event on which you can capitalize? Additionally, you must think of the application of your various product offerings, and even consider whether the opportunity is too small or beyond your firm’s capacity.

    3. When is the Date? Every deal has a time-frame for evaluation, decision making, and implementation. Here are some questions to draw this out:
    What is the time-frame?
    What is the target date for a decision?
    What is the implementation date?

    4. Where is the Money? Critical to effective qualification of any sales opportunity is the understanding of the existence and source of funds. A few key questions:
    Do you have a budget identified?
    What is the budget process and who would be involved?
    • (if they have no budget) What’s the process for obtaining funds for a
    project like this and who would be involved?

    5. Why the Buy? Beneath the surface of every deal are the real underlying motivations, reasons, even Compelling Event driving the decision making. Consumer buying decisions focus on Product Features, Quality, Service, Cost and Brand. Business buying decisions focus on the Vendor, Product and Services, Price/Cost and ROI, Time, and potentially even the Sales Person. In both consumer or business deals there are typically two of these elements that bubble up as priorities. The way to draw this out is to ask the following question:
    What is your key decision criteria?
    What’s most important to you?
    What are the real drivers here?

    6. How Do They Buy? Finally, every company has a process by which they buy. This process includes key people and the power players. By asking the following question you can determine valuable information that will help you throughout the rest of the sales cycle:
    What’s the process for making a decision and who would be involved?

Qualifying an opportunity is not done with sequential questions or necessarily in one sales call. Effective qualification is usually done over a series of conversations in the first few stages of the sales process.
These six qualification points, easily remembered as Who, What, When Where, Why and How questions, are difference makers in effective selling.

Are you a Qualify Master?