Avoid the number one complaint about salespeople and improve your qualification process

Want to know the main complaint about salespeople? It’s that we talk too much! Now you might think “That’s why I’m so great at sales, I can talk the hind legs off a donkey.” However, when it comes down to it, your clients don’t want to be talked into submission.

They want to feel that you truly understand the problem they’re facing and that the solution you provide is the most appropriate one.

This is because the most effective salespeople are those that speak less and listen more. It’s not what you say that can increase your sales effectiveness, it’s what you ask.

In this blog we discuss the importance of qualification and the criteria to focus on, to improve conversions. We also provide a real-life example of how you can score prospects, through a standardised qualification process.


What is sales qualification?

Qualification is the assessment of potential prospects (through intelligent questioning), to ensure they are a good fit for your product or service. Without sales qualification, you risk pursuing leads which aren’t a good fit due to budgetary constraints, organisational challenges, or other factors.

In short, without effective qualification, you’ll waste time on accounts that are highly unlikely to buy from you.


Why qualify?

As well as improving conversion rates, effective qualification makes it easier to forecast sales and puts you in a stronger negotiating position further along the sales cycle. For example, if you have clarified the budget early in the process, it’s difficult for the client to argue the financials have changed when it comes to signing on the dotted line.

Qualification also helps create further opportunities to sell different propositions across your organisation, or to sell more of the same proposition into different subsidiaries.


Asking the right qualification questions, in the right context

Sales qualification isn’t a case of asking a series of questions. It’s about how you frame those questions and the logic behind them. This approach isn’t just about securing a sale in the short term, it’s about taking a consultative approach and positioning yourself as a trusted expert over the long term.

Someone who fully understands the issue the client is facing and can see some of the implications (of not taking action or taking the wrong action) the client hasn’t yet considered.


In short, your questions should achieve the following objectives:

  1. For you to fully understand the situation the client is facing.
  2. For the client to fully understand the situation (including issues they may not have thought of).
  3. For the client to understand that YOU understand their situation.

Which is where we return to the complaint about talkative salespeople. If you are asking the right questions, your prospect will be doing all the talking. A simple approach is to then summarise back to the client, in their own words, what the issue is. Depending on the service or product you are offering, this process (of questioning, understanding, reframing, and clarifying) may take place over one or several meetings.


Using an effective sales qualification framework

At SBR we use the NTABO framework to assess the client’s need, timeline, authority, budget, and any other potential obstacles.

Again, depending on your product or service, and the length of the sales cycle, this is information that may require several meetings to obtain and from several different sources (whether that’s from the client itself or external sources).

So, what does this look like in a real-world sales situation? Our co-managing director Stuart Lotherington recently discussed a deal, which had stalled, during a webinar with our Principal Consultant Jonathan Adams.

In this framework:

 0 = “We definitely don’t know.”

1 = “We think we know but don’t have any evidence to support it.”

2 = “We have a strong indication because of XYZ.”

3 = “We have had this information confirmed by the prospect.”

Scoring each criterion helps determine where greater insight is needed to move the deal along. This approach is most effective when a colleague really presses you on your information, to see where more work is needed.

In this situation, the organisation had recently been acquired. Due to restructuring, the decision-making unit had changed. Not only did this exercise help Stuart to plan his next actions but it also helps forecast when the deal is likely to be closed – whether that’s the following month or the following quarter.

Jonathan says: “It’s critical the way that you can conduct this is in a peer to peer or personal format. You don’t need a leader to do this. Ultimately, it’s about asking questions, challenging each other. Although Stuart felt that he knew about his opportunity, by me questioning him and asking him it got him to the point, where he knew which actions to focus on.”


In summary

As we have mentioned, your approach to sales qualification will be highly determined by the product or service you are offering. However, by introducing an effective framework such as NTABO it will enable you and your team to increase conversions, bring more accuracy to forecasting (as an organisation and for individuals) and ultimately build better long-term relationships with your clients.

For a more in-depth look at how to apply the NTABO framework and the importance of a consultative approach, you can watch a replay of the webinar here.


To talk to us more on the qualification process, please get in touch by emailing info@sbrconsulting.com or call us on +44 (0) 207 653 3740.

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