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One of the most crucial interactions we face as sales reps with a potential customer is the discovery call.
For you and your prospect, it’s a fork in the road: either you foresee a mutually beneficial relationship that merits addressing the next steps in the sales process, or you don’t and you move on.
Making that decision, however, is easier said than done. This is where the importance of sales qualification comes into play.
It’s all about asking the right questions. You assess the relationship, continue gathering information such as pain points and what the client needs from you. All while devising a plan for the potential client, to really understand themselves, and how you’ll take them to their next level. This article is designed to help improve your discovery phase. It will take you through the principles of sales qualification, show you how to use alternative frameworks, and provide you advice on disqualifying and conversational tip-offs to keep an ear out for.
What Does It Mean To Qualify Sales?
The process of establishing if a prospect is a good fit for your organization is known as sales qualification. It’s a major component of sales calls and is crucial for assessing whether customers are likely to stick around in the long run.
You’d undoubtedly chat to hundreds of leads a day if you didn’t use sales qualification, only to end up with a couple of closed deals to show for your efforts. It’s an important part of every successful sales pipeline… Let’s find out why!
Why Is Lead Qualification Important?
Simply said, sales qualification is critical for organizations, simply because it’s been proven to dramatically raise close ratios. You otherwise risk pursuing prospects who aren’t suitable. This often creates budgetary or organization issues.
Simply put, sales qualification is a better method to sell. It saves you time and resources by allowing you to explore the leads most likely to buy. More specifically, qualifying your leads is beneficial because:
- When a lead isn’t qualified, you can move on and focus your efforts on the prospects that are more likely to purchase.
- You can target a smaller, more particular group of buyers, allowing you to provide a more personalized selling experience.
- You may discover additional problems the buyer is facing and, as a result, provide a superior solution.
- You can be confident that your time and resources spent on a lead is more likely to create revenue.
- You can establish separate sales qualification methods for different sectors and maintain a list of customized pitches.
How To Qualify A Lead
The qualification process starts with a pool of leads that your sales, marketing, and acquisition teams have created. These leads may come through questions that have been emailed to your organization, professionals contacting you through LinkedIn, or people who entered a draw at your tradeshow booth. Wherever the leads came from, it’s bound to be one of the five types of leads:
Cold calling is when a salesperson conducts a phone call with a person or company with whom they’ve had no prior contact. The purpose of a cold call is to try and generate a lead and convince a potential prospect to either learn more about a product or service or to buy that product or service.
A discovery call, on the other hand, is the first point of contact with a potential buyer that a salesperson makes after that prospect has shown some initial interest in a product or service. The purpose of the discovery call is to discover more about the prospect. It gives sales reps the opportunity to learn about pain points or issues for which a prospect needs a solution, as well as to build rapport with them and establish trust.
1. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): are fit to receive marketing content such as special offers, etc.
2. Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): are ready to connect one-on-one with a sales rep and get the sales process started.
3. Product Qualified Leads (PQLs): are those who indicated strong interest in your organization and/or product by entering into a free trial or freemium subscription.
4. Conversion Qualified Leads (CQLs): has converted on your website, typically by submitting a form or clicking a “call now” button.
5. Unqualified Leads: have not had enough nurturing to be sent sales communications yet or have gone through one or more of the above stages, and determined to be unfit for the organization.
Now your leads can be fed into a lead qualification system, where you may ask a series of qualifying questions to see if they’re a good or bad fit for your company.
The leads are then separated into qualifying and ineligible leads. After that, the qualifying leads are put into the sales funnel. Disqualified leads are routed through a nurturing process in the hopes of warming up to your organization and making a purchase later on.
What Is A Lead Qualification Question
A qualifying question aids your sales team in determining whether or not their potential client meets one of the criteria. That could be due to a need, a budget, authority, or a sense of urgency, among other things.
However, a good qualifying question is usually one that can be answered in any way. When you ask a closed-ended question, such as “Is this important to you right now?” the buyer is forced to respond “yes” or “no”. If the buyer says yes, then the door is still open, however, if they say no, it makes your job a lot more difficult. Instead try: “Where on your list of priorities does this stand?” Phrasing this way creates a better conversation that is more open and honest. It also doesn’t lead to any immediate doors being closed in your face.
Examples of good qualification questions include:
1. What business problems can our products/service assist you with?
2. What has kept you from attempting to resolve the issue until now?
3. What is your projected budget for this project?
4. Have you tried any previous solutions to this issue? If that’s the case, why are you switching?
5. What is your top priority when it comes to resolving this issue and which feature would be the most important?
6. Who on your team would use the product the most, and how often?
7. What are some areas of your daily routine that you believe this product could help you streamline?
8. Who would be the decision-makers in the purchasing of this product?
How To Secure Your Qualified Leads
When qualifying a lead, there are three methodologies that we turn to, known by their acronyms: BANT, CHAMP, & MEDDIC. Each one is concerned with gathering the following information from a prospect:
- Is your prospect able to pay for your goods or service with cash or a budget?
- What is the prospect’s business pain point that your solution can alleviate?
- Is your prospect in a position to decide whether or not to buy from you?
Without this critical information, it’s hard to know how much potential or value a lead can have. That’s why we’ll explore all three here in detail.
BUDGET, AUTHORITY, NEED, TIMING
Developed at IBM in the 1950s, BANT is still used today to shorten sales cycles and weed out inadequate prospects. It’s popular because it’s easy.
In regards to BUDGET, you’re picking out information around their budget including what the prospect can afford. It’s also important to know what they’re expecting to pay and what they’re willing to pay. These might sound like the same thing, but they provide three different values.
AUTHORITY tells you who in their organization needs you or your product. It includes who the decision-maker is, so you can ensure your information is getting to the right person.
The prospects NEED to inform you if you can actually help solve their problem. Try to address all their problems, and find out what other solutions they’ve tried.
Finally, the TIMELINE focuses on how urgently they need a solution. If their timeline is too far out, it may be beneficial to pause your pipeline, so you don’t wear out your relationship before they even need you.
CHALLENGES, AUTHORITY, MONEY, PRIORITIZATION
The only way a prospect can be qualified is if they have a business pain or problem that needs addressing. What are the specific business challenges that the prospect faces? If there aren’t any, or if they don’t match your offerings, then they’re considered disqualified. In concept, CHAMP is similar to BANT, but it differs in terms of where the emphasis should be placed in the sales cycle when qualifying a prospect.
The CHALLENGES you want to focus on are your clients’ pain points.
AUTHORITY is similar to the above method as well, specifically looking for who is able to sign off on their purchase.
Instead of “budget” which is used above, MONEY is used to discuss the confines of your clients’ spending.
Finally, PRIORITIZATION is ensuring that their problem and your solution are a top priority, otherwise, you need to determine if waiting is the best option.
METRICS, ECONOMIC BUYER, DECISION CRITERIA, DECISION PROCESS, IDENTIFY PAIN, CHAMPION
A much longer name, for a much deeper and thorough approach. A problem that BANT and CHAMP share is they lack the granularity needed to sell to large corporations. Decisions need to be sent up the chain of command where they are assured by a return on investment. MEDDIC can offer this additional security.
METRICS refers to your key performance indicators, especially the perceived ROI.
When discussing the ECONOMIC BUYER, you’re determining who in the organization will perpetuate their budget to what you’re selling.
DECISION CRITERIA is essentially a checklist your buyer needs to consider before making any purchase decisions.
Meanwhile, DECISION PROCESS focuses on the chain of command, who you need to convince first, and who ultimately decides in the end.
In order to IDENTIFY PAIN, you need to relate to or be empathetic to the pain point your potential client is experiencing, as well as any objectives they might raise.
Finally, the CHAMPION refers to the person in their organization who wants to bring you aboard and use your solutions. They’re the one(s) fighting for you. The role of the champion is another difference that the MEDDIC approach offers, opposed to BANT or CHAMP.
Some businesses may not have these identical systems in place to follow these techniques to the letter. When it comes to enhancing a sales process, you’ll want to customize these approaches to match your needs. Remember, there is really no such thing as an “optimal” sales strategy. Each firm and sector is distinct, and what works for one may not work as well for another. That’s why it’s important to continually learn and adapt.
How To Create Value During Each Step Of The Lead Qualification Process
The truth is your potential clients probably have a lot of choices. You want customers to choose you and your organization, but you can’t compel them to do so. Rather, you must market effectively, continually increasing value.
You’re basically guessing what your prospects want if you don’t have a tight, efficient sales funnel. If you guess wrong, you’ll likely lose the sale immediately. Just to clear up any potential confusion, a sales pipeline demonstrates the stages a customer goes through to become a customer. Meanwhile, a sales funnel is similar information, represented differently. It refers to the number of prospects who make it through those stages. Therefore, creating value at each stage of the qualification process is similar to, and just as important as adding value along your funnel.
You may improve your lead qualification process in a variety of ways. The areas where customers migrate to the next stage in the funnel are the most crucial to concentrate on.
- Start with your landing pages. They should be split into two groups for A/B testing. It will take some time, but you will be able to contact and convert more prospects.
- You can also use A/B testing to see how effective your email campaigns are. You could learn what your audience responds to, experiment with different language, visuals, layouts, and CTAs
- Now focus on value at other stages. Prioritize your content, whether paid or organic, to persuade people to notice your brand and click on your call to action. The great thing about digital marketing is being able to try different techniques until you find one that works. Again, the only way to know for sure, what works best is to A/B test your headline, copy, graphics, and CTA.
- If you’re not doing so already, start tracking your customer retention rate. You need to know if people come back to purchase again, and how many times. You also want to find out if they’re referring you to other peers. A good way to do this is to offer a referral program.
Qualifying Leads: Good Signs & Bad Signs
It can help a sales representative immensely if they’re on the lookout – not just for good signs, but bad signs from your prospect too. It really is the best way to ensure this potential client is worth your time.
Good signs often include:
- SPECIFICS: Prospects who can provide detailed answers to queries like “What are your objectives?” and “When do you need results?” have given much thought to their issue. Keep an ear out for detailed plans, well-thought-out explanations, and figures. Specifics also show that your prospect is in genuine distress. After all, those who don’t have actual problems don’t think about why they occur or how to solve them.
- The caveat is, of course, that specificity must be matched with actuality. A prospect who says, “I want to triple sales in the next month,” is demonstrating their lack of business understanding with specifics.
- KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge and specificity usually go hand in hand. A knowledge check is ideal for stakeholder qualification. True decision-makers will be well-versed about the company’s objectives, issues, and requirements. In the sales process, a contact who does not have access to this information is unlikely to be useful.
- EXCUSES: It’s natural to think that hearing excuses is a bad thing, however, in this case, they assist us in aligning our behaviors with who we wish to become. If your prospect tries to justify earlier inaction addressing business pain during a sales call, your ears should perk up. This could mean one of two things: either the reason is valid, or your prospect regrets not taking action sooner and is attempting to justify why they didn’t. In either case, it demonstrates that their suffering is genuine.
Bad signs to watch out for include:
BRIEF ANSWERS: When a business is really hurting or has reached a significant pain point, it permeates the organization. Leaders lose sleep over it, and employees are forced to cope with it daily. Prospects will want to speak with you if you give them the sense that you can help them relieve their agony.
Due to this, a prospect who gives you one-word answers is likely not interested in having a conversation with you. It’s possible that the problem isn’t a problem at all, or that the contact isn’t aware of its gravity. Before disqualifying, attempt reaching out to someone else in the organization who might be more interested in speaking with you.
INCONSISTENCIES: A potential client whose responses contradict each other is probably someone who wants to help but is unable to do so, usually due to a lack of information. Prod them to share with you who does have the answers, and continue qualifying the lead with the new contact.
From this article, it’s easy to see why qualifying leads is important to you and your organization. It saves time, money, resources, and your sanity. We’ve provided several solutions, because, in the end, your sales pipeline, including how you qualify leads needs to be tailored to your organization. Remember, while qualifying your leads to always tout the benefits of your product or service, giving them value along the way.
By following the above tips, you’ll be closing more deals in no time. For more tips about selling and closing deals, check out the Wingmate Blog, where we’ve laid out everything you need to know about hitting your goals and becoming a successful sales rep.
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