How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Qualifying requires discovery of the answers to five key questions:
Whilst there is an approximate sequence to these steps, in practice determining the answers may be a highly parallel activity.
If you want a high conversion rate of qualified-in prospects to sales, then you may tighten up the first question in particular. The next question here, then, is whether they have a conscious need for your product (or something similar) or whether you will have to stimulate that need.
If they come to you, then they most likely have a conscious need -- although you may still want to question them on this. Sometimes people think they need something when they would be better served by something else.
If they do not have a clear conscious need, then your first job is to discover that need. If you are selling paper-clips, then you will need to find out if if it would be useful for them to attach pages together. It is important for you to know all benefits of your product, especially in comparison with competing products, thus the paper-clip sales person should also ask about the need to separate attached pages -- something you can easily do with paper clips but not with staples.
Any deal has value for three people, and for long-term sales all three need to get enough to keep them in the game. Value is defined as a balance between benefits gained and all costs and troubles incurred in gaining those benefits.
Customers, of course, seek value, but so also does your employer and indeed you. Qualifying the value thus needs all three to be considered. If your customers are not going to find value then they will qualify themselves out of the funnel before the close (or otherwise destroy your value). If your employer is not going to get value it will affect you, sooner or later. And of course if it is not worth your time then you may choose to seek bigger fish.
When you know that there is enough value in the deal to make it worthwhile, the next question is whether everyone can afford it.
Even if the potential customer is wildly enthusiastic about your product, if they cannot pay then you will be wasting your time. Of course there are ways to reduce and spread price over time, and you need to take this into consideration. It is not surprising that one of the first question many sales people as is 'How much are you looking to spend today?'
You also need to take into account your resource. Consider how much time and cost will be required to close the deal. Consider your employer's resource too, for example what resources that you share with other sales people you might need.
Qualifying the person with whom you are talking is an important additional step, as they may not have the authority to make the purchase decision. If, however, they can bring in the relevant other people or otherwise give you access to them, then you may be in business.
Customers often have to justify their purchases within their own organizations and thus may need to engage advisors, supporters, gatekeepers and resource-holders in what may be called a 'buying team' (although they do not always act like a cohesive team). Even in retail sales, other members of the family may need to be engaged. Advisors, such as technical experts, provide additional information about usability, potential problems, alternatives and so on. Supporters, such as senior sponsors and users, lend their weight to the argument. Gatekeepers, such as personal assistants and managers, can prevent you from reaching people and other resources. Finally, resource-holders can say 'yes' to spending money and allocating people that will enable you to close the deal.
Sales thus can require orchestration of many people, and qualifying in the deal requires consideration and agreement that these people will be available.
The final element of qualification is readiness. Readiness is an important test that lets you know whether the potential customer has sufficient desire for your product and is otherwise ready to sign the deal. This can range from desperation to doubt to downright opposition.
The whole buying team needs to be considered here, as all it takes is one person to scupper the deal. When you understand this 'readiness landscape', however, even sketchily, you will have a much better idea of whether the deal is worth pursuing.