What is qualification?
As a reminder, a sales process consists of 3 main stages: qualification, value proposition and closing. Qualification is first and foremost a step to assess whether or not there is an opportunity and to collect the necessary information you will need to succeed in your sales process.
What is sales qualification?
If there is one step you need to spend time on, it is the qualifying step. The success of your sales process will depend on its quality. If you succeed in obtaining a good qualification, you will have the assurance of not making efforts for nothing, your value proposition will be more effective, more relevant and your closing will only be a formality.
Qualification has two main objectives: to qualify the opportunity and to qualify the customer.
Qualifying the opportunity is above all identifying whether a business opportunity is interesting or not. This is the first element that should help you make a decision to initiate the sales process or stop your exchanges with the prospect.
As a reminder, a sales process always has costs that are both psychological (on the motivation of your salespeople) and financial (a sales process takes time, and time is money). So continuing a sales process without a clearly identified opportunity in line with your offer is sure to fail.
But qualifying also means collecting information about your prospect and creating a link with him. This will allow you to know the right arguments to use during your exchanges and the right way to deal with this prospect to lead to a sale. Because you should not focus only on the rational elements, the sale is a process centered around the human being, the emotions are therefore just as important.
Qualification: whether or not to initiate the sales process
Now is the time to decide: should you start the sales process or stop everything? The qualification will allow you to sort between the good prospects and the others. And to do that, you're going to have to learn to say no and overcome your fear of missing out on a big sale.
There's no point in "trying it" just to make sure you haven't missed the opportunity of the century when all the lights are red. It is purely irrational and above all you will drive the development of your business right into a wall, first:
- Financially: a sales process always has a financial cost, and if your time is not put to good use and you find yourself dealing with irrelevant prospects, you might as well throw the money away.
- Morally: in the commercial field, the mind counts for a lot. If you chain failures because you wanted to try a sales process when it had little chance of succeeding, it is putting a bullet in your foot.
- Then in terms of opportunity: there is nothing worse than giving your all on prospects that are not worth it, even if you have few. This will create more problems for you than anything else. Rather than stressing about initiating your sales processes, use your time wisely by finding the right opportunities and not trying to convert anyone at all costs.
The three objectives of a successful qualification
If your qualification step fails, no matter how proficient you are during your value proposition and closing, you won't get anywhere. Conversely, a successful qualification rarely leads to a sales failure.
This step should therefore not be neglected and the issues at stake should be understood. When qualifying, you have 3 main missions:
- The first is to identify if the opportunity is interesting or not, if you can launch your sales process or not. Because the most profitable commercial action to take will always be not to start a sales process that is doomed to failure. It is both very important, but also very difficult to succeed in identifying opportunities that are worthwhile. To make it easier for you, make sure you use the right acquisition sources.
- The second mission is going to be to collect all the important information you need to complete your sales process so that you can close the sale. This is an extremely rich qualification phase, during which you must practice active listening to obtain enough material to deal with your prospect effectively throughout your exchanges.
- Your third mission must be treated simultaneously with the second: you must succeed in establishing a relationship of trust with your prospect. This is important in order to obtain all the information necessary to move forward (the more you are confident, the more you open up), but also because a sales process is never fully rational, the competition is fierce, emotions play a very important role in the exchanges with your prospects.
Discovery plan: How to successfully qualify?
The prospect qualification stage must therefore above all allow you to retrieve information about your prospect and create a link with him. To achieve its two objectives simultaneously, you will have to move away from the checklist type models of closed and open questions to ask, such as Spin Selling, at the risk of turning yourself into a police inspector who would question his suspect.
Because you will probably not get the answers to your questions, or at least partial and not entirely accurate answers. So how do you qualify a prospect? Thanks to Q2C selling conversations!
Conversations for a successful discovery plan
Conversations are very important between a salesperson and his prospect. They are all the more important during the qualification stage, which is why we offer you a fairly effective conversational model to structure your meetings with 6 conversations and ask the right questions.
Three conversations to frame:
The conversation about identity
The objective is to make your prospect understand who you are, what stages you have gone through in your professional life and conversely your prospect must provide you with the same information. Here, there is not a list of specific questions to ask, it must be a natural conversation.
But you can still help yourself with what is called “the salesperson’s story” which will encourage your prospect to engage more easily with you. How ? By leading by example: you must tell your story! The more your prospect learns about you, the more trust they will have. You have to build a message to sell. The prospect will not see your speech as an argument but as a story.
The probationary conversation
You must answer the following question: how are you going to prove that you are legitimate to take charge of this sales process and guide your prospect? And how will he prove that he is legitimate to complete this sales process, that is to say is he serious enough? Motivated enough? Does he have the necessary responsibilities to carry out this project?
Typically these conversations are only very rarely directly addressed by the usual sales techniques. It is assumed that the person in front has the ability to complete the sales process. But this conversation is important to prevent the prospect and salesperson from wasting time.
The conversation on the course
During this conversation you have a double objective: On the one hand, you must understand the steps that led the prospect to contact you (how he knew you and the elements that prompted him to contact you). And on the other hand, you must explain to him what course you are going to offer him to end up solving his problem: What are you going to do together?
This will allow you to identify the source of the opportunity, which will necessarily impact your closing and the progress of your sales process. But also to detect opportunities that are not there. Because a customer who has no intention of buying at all, it shows! Conversely, if your prospect has a real project, he will feel supported.
To help you, there are so-called collaborative contents. The objective is to model your sales process, to present these stages to your prospect and to define with him the rhythm for his decision-making. This transparency is both reassuring for him, which allows you to collect better quality information.
Two conversations to understand:
The conversation about the problem
A customer does not have a need, he has a problem. He often thinks he knows what he needs but in reality, if you want to sell quickly and well, you must not meet the customer's need but solve his problem.
It is very different both in the speech that you will lead but also in the exchange that you will have with your prospect. You must therefore discuss the problem with your prospect: how he tried to solve it, why he wants to solve it, how important his problem is, etc…
The conversation about the value of the problem
We may have something that bothers us a lot, if the value of this problem is minimal, there is not much we can do about it and it is better not to spend too much time on it because solving them will not bring any additional value, or a very low value.
Moreover, questioning the value of a problem also means putting the prospect face to face with the economic reality linked to his problem. Often they don't ask enough questions, and it's only when you begin to measure the extent of the problem that you realize how important it is to address it.
A conversation to project yourself:
The conversation about the common future
Always neglected but yet very important, the conversation about the common future should allow you to strengthen the bond with your prospect. The question is: “How, thanks to this conversation, will I help my prospect to project himself with me?”. With this conversation, it is partly won because if your competitors do not do it but you do it, inevitably your prospect will see himself working with you.
The question will be to ask yourself what are the elements that will make this meeting between you and your prospect change everything for him in the long term. The interest here is first of all to surprise your prospect - by being surprised we do not necessarily have time to prepare a lie so we are necessarily honest.
You will also have elements that will stand out and that will not necessarily come out during the other conversations. Thus, not only do you help your prospect to project themselves, but you also recover information that you will never be able to obtain with purely rational questions.
Thanks to these 6 conversations you will have material to orient your value proposition correctly. Failure will be unlikely and you can save time!
The question of the budget in the qualification stage
You are probably wondering: where is the budget conversation?
There is a tendency to repress the question of the budget. Yet it is not a forbidden word, on the contrary it is very important data to judge the feasibility of a project. The sooner the question arises during the sales process, the better!
Because without a budget, we can't do anything, no matter how good we want it. You need to be comfortable enough with this question so that your prospect can be too. This will also allow you to take charge of price negotiations.
And precisely, we must find this conversation on the budget via four of the conversations that we have seen previously:
- The probationary conversation
- The conversation on the course
- The conversation about the problem
- The conversation about value
Be careful to only mention it in one of your conversations, the idea is not to speak each time but to choose the most favorable context for this exchange. The key to a sale is your prospect's problem, the notion of budget will depend on the value of this problem, which you must make your prospect aware of. In addition, talking about the budget will allow you to gauge the amount that your prospect is ready to allocate for his project. If nothing is very precise, beware!