Sales executives tell us often that one of the challenges they face is ensuring that their salespeople are doing a really great job of qualifying opportunities. Unless potential opportunities are well qualified, precious time is wasted, which not only does nothing to drive pipeline and revenue, but it is quite costly to the organization.
Many might say that “marketing” should be qualifying opportunities, but I believe it is the job of both sales and marketing. If you work in a smaller business, there is a high likelihood that you don’t have a separate marketing department anyway. And even if marketing does the early qualification for sales, I still feel strongly that as a salesperson, it is my job to dig even deeper to be sure that there really is a potential for a sale.
Why are salespeople often not good at qualifying opportunities? I don’t think that they ask the right questions. As a whole, salespeople tend to be pretty optimistic and think that if they can just get in front of someone, they can close a deal. Frankly, it just isn’t true. To increase their chances of closing more deals, salespeople need to get in front of the right people – at the right time – with the right value proposition. And…they need to ask the right questions.
What are the right questions?
At SCS, we train our clients in a methodology called SOS – Sales Opportunity Snapshot. The approach is a straightforward, simple and powerful way to determine if a lead is qualified enough to justify putting time and money into chasing it. This is an internal process that sales reps use and it begins with these three questions:
1) Should we pursue this opportunity?
Before charging forward with a resounding yes, do you know what the client’s business initiative is, are you sure that they have the ability to fund the solution and do you clearly understand your prospects driving reason to change? If you don’t know the answer to these three things, then no – you should not pursue the opportunity. Instead, you need to gather more information.
2) Can we effectively compete for this opportunity?
The first thing you need to know is at what point in the buying cycle you are engaging. If you are going into the potential opportunity in the middle or near the end, there is a very strong chance that a clear front runner has been identified and your proposal will only be used to help negotiate a better deal. But let’s assume that you are on the front end of the opportunity, you need to ask yourself these questions. Thinking about it from your prospects point of view, do you know if they believe in the viability of your solution? Have you thought through what the sales and implementation resources requirements are? Finally, what is the specific business value of your solution and how does it solve your prospects problem?
3) Can we reasonably expect to win this opportunity?
As I mentioned earlier, salespeople are notoriously optimistic about deal win rates. They think that if a good conversation transpired and you really connected, that you have a great shot at winning. Not so! As with the other questions, you need to think about this one carefully. How strong is your ability to impact the client’s decision making process? Do you have the executive credibility and support that you will need to ensure a win? Are you aligned with the relevant decision maker? If you are not tied to the right decision maker and there is no executive support, your win probability is pretty low.
Qualifying opportunities is a critically important part of your sales process. Don’t spend time with every potential lead that comes your way. Before investing your time, follow the process that I’ve outlined here in my post and you’ll find yourself working smarter, not harder and in the end, closing more profitable deals!