Salespeople are by nature competitive, which is great – who would want to hire a salesperson who wasn’t motivated by winning a deal? However this competitive nature can have a downside - particularly where your salespeople are also involved in prospecting, leads, and even not very good leads, can become really exciting.
One salesperson I knew drove a 100-mile round-trip and only found out in the meeting that the customer had a £300 budget! I’m sure you know people who have done similar things – hopefully they don’t work in your team (better still if they work for your competitors).
The point here is that there are two sides to the equation – just as you want your customers to realise that buying has benefits as well as costs (see my recent post on building value), you need your sales team to know there are costs as well as revenues in the sales process, and to have the skills and tools to effectively qualify their leads.
Areas to Focus
The key areas to focus in order to optimize your qualification are:
- Organizational – the ethos needs to be right in the company i.e. about quality as well as quantity of leads
- Knowledge and skills – you need to train the sales team to effectively qualify, as well as to sell. While qualification has been a part of most of the sales training courses I’ve been on down the years, it’s probably not been as big a part as its importance warrants.
- Metrics – you need to know what makes a good lead. While budget is one point which gets a lot of focus it’s vital to understand all aspects of your ideal opportunity profile (organization size; industry; requirements/pain points etc.). Most good salespeople have a gut feeling when leads are not right, but are often reluctant to let them go – if you can give them the metrics to support their intuition you’ll unquestionably benefit.
- Don’t be afraid – you and your sales-teams shouldn’t be afraid to qualify out – often a hallmark of unsuccessful sales teams that they cling to every “opportunity” when there’s minimal chance of success. You’d be better off with a smaller team where you can focus your best opportunities on the highest quality salespeople.
- And last but not least of course technology – the next section talks about some of the tech you can use to improve qualification
Technology for Qualification
The latest CRM and marketing automation software allows you to set up workflows that automatically attribute a score to leads based on actions they take – Salesforce do this very well with their Einstein solution, but this is also available in other CRM and marketing automation tools, for example Hubspot.
This is particularly useful to differentiate early-stage leads. So, for example, actions such as looking at an email, clicking on a link, or viewing a case study online are all assigned different points values, so the sum of the actions a prospect has taken provide a measure of their interest. Using a grading mechanism like this allows salespeople to become far more structured in their calling, as leads with higher scores get called first.
Another useful option is to review company financial data using a provider such as Creditsafe. Many companies use this kind of service for credit-checking but it’s very under-used for qualification. This approach can also be used for pre-qualification of target accounts, for example if you’re building a list for a social marketing campaign
Another option is to formalise discovery in the form of documentation that must be completed by the client and salesperson, for example before a meeting or before sending a proposal. Tools like PandaDoc are great for this where the process is an online one. If your process requires a more intensive face-to-face information gathering exercise, tools such as Formworks are ideal. Formworks enables the creation of sophisticated custom forms which can be completed on a tablet and automatically synced with your back-end systems – this is great for certain sales environments as well as providing the potential to support various other business areas.
Suitable training, appropriate metrics, and the right technology can help you effectively qualify, making your sales team more efficient and increasing the time they spend on the best opportunities. However all of this needs to be underpinned by the right mind-set within the sales and marketing organization. A high quantity of leads is great if the leads are of the right quality. If not, the sooner you can qualify out the better – far better to be ruthless than to waste time on questionable leads.