What is your qualification process based on?

15 April 2016 by Charles Howden

So now the dust has well and truly settled on Q1, how was it for you? And what does a half-filled glass have to do with sales conversion?

Most of us have been there. Great opportunities that are expected to close just drifting off into the next quarter… The unseemly scramble to grab whatever you can in the last fortnight of the quarter. If you recognise this territory, you’ll know it’s not pretty (or very dignified).

So what went wrong? And how do you avoid the repeating the same dynamic at the end of the following quarter (on the assumption that you have one).

When you find the thinking time to step back and examine the “great opportunities” that you were certain were going to underpin your sales result, how often, in the cold light of day do you think to yourself “you know, that one was never going to close”. Because somewhere in the mix there was a crucial component of the sales process that had either been overlooked or hadn’t/couldn’t be agreed/signed off.

Yes, you’ll know I’m referring to qualification criteria. And the mantra “qualify hard, qualify early” that when ruthlessly applied, avoids us from “betting the ranch” on a deal that wasn’t worth the investment of our time. What about those opportunities that are in your funnel (that should have been qualified). How likely are they to go the distance? Well only if you’ve managed to positively answer the following five questions:

• Business case – Does your proposition solve an issue that is a recognised problem for your prospect? And have you been able to support your proposition with similar reference cases.

• Urgency – Have you helped your prospect to calculate the implications (financial and operationally) of doing nothing?

• Value case – Have you helped your prospect to financially model the ROI for your proposition, including unspoken/implied costs of implementation.

• Buying process – Have you identified how your prospect’s organisation makes purchasing decision for propositions in your category

• Sponsorship – Have you achieved sponsorship at the level in the organisation that has access to the level of budget you need?

Why do good sellers find it so hard to qualify opportunities out of their pipeline?

Well good opportunities can be thin on the ground (so start focusing on how to leverage your lead generation model). When you’ve invested your time and effort nurturing an opportunity, it can be hard to know when to walk away (remember the “endowment effect” identified by Kahneman & Tversky).

And of course, good sellers are optimistic. Looking at opportunities through a glass that’s half-full, will often obscure the cold reality that using black and white qualification criteria will highlight.

So with Q2 opening up, now is the perfect time to inject a sense of reality into your current pipeline. Your sales conversion should not be dependent on which end of the glass you are viewing it from!

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