Take Me Out to the Ballpark, Part 2: Stop Swinging at Bad Pitches

Posted on May 27, 2011. Filed under: Lead Generation, Sales, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales pipeline, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , |

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Stop swinging at bad pitches

Otherwise known as learn to qualify better. 

Qualification has always been an important skill for sellers.  Now the stakes are even higher.  For many sellers there are fewer opportunities to chase than before when the economy was booming and sellers mainly took orders.  The more time sellers spend on leads that will go nowhere is less time available to chase leads that could become sales.

Our clients have learned to improve qualification by understanding it from the customer’s perspective.  From the customer’s perspective they go through a series of three significant stages in the buying process.  Our BuyCycle Funnel™ gives sellers the guide to get inside this customer perspective.  The seller is more productive – he loses faster, he avoids overcommitting, and he avoids overestimating the value of his or her sales funnel.

The first stage of qualification (Stage 1) is Problem Recognition.  The customer needs to express an issue, a need, an opportunity or a problem clearly enough that the seller knows he or she can solve the problem.

The key to Stage 1 qualification is knowing how much the customer knows about the problem.  Vague comments about wanting to ‘reduce costs’ and ‘get better’ have to be explored and challenged.  For a software client of mine the seller might learn from a CIO that his medical supply company is spending too much time tracking certain assets once they leave the warehouse.  The CIO might say “we’d like to improve our efficiency.”  Has the CIO or his staff spent time understanding this problem?  What do they know about it?

The software rep needs to challenge the CIO’s intent to act now.  He could reply “Do you have a target performance goal for improving efficiency this year?  Or, “Where are you seeing the inefficiency the most? A vague reply could indicate lack of a commitment to take action.  It can also be your opening to suggest that the stakeholder be more aware of the real consequences at play.

The second stage of qualification (Stage 2) is Defining Economic Consequence.  In this stage the customer is deciding how costly the problem is or could become if it doesn’t change.  It’s largely a dollars and cents kind of assessment.  Problems that cause enough economic distress or anxiety for key stakeholders are more likely to be acted on.  The software rep might ask these questions:

  • Is the efficiency problem costing you money that you’re aware of? 
  • Does it threaten any key customer relationships?  Could it if the problem worsens? 
  • Is it a top 3 problem?  Have you reached a point where you can’t afford to run your business this way?
  • Do you know how it affects other parts of the business?  
  • What’s at stake for you if this issue doesn’t get addressed? 

If the economic consequence or impact is not great enough and if the anxiety isn’t high enough then the stakeholder continues to live with the problem.

Knowing what type of stakeholder you’re talking to is important.  If the PFA is ambivalent there will be no change.  If the stakeholder isn’t a PFA he could be pulling his hair out with frustration but will have to live with the problem.

The third stage of qualification (Stage 3) is Commit Funding.  Here the PFA has committed funding or significant resources to fix the problem.  The PFA is expressly saying “we choose to no longer live with the problem.”

Yeah this is big deal when the PFA commits!  It’s almost as big as signing on the line that is dotted.  The key here is to be sure you’re hearing correctly that funding has been committed.  You can hear it directly from the PFA or from a highly reliable source that knows this has happened.

Don’t complicate your selling.  It’s already tough enough.  Stick to these fundamentals as you evaluate how qualified your funnel of opportunities is.

Looks like we’ve got a base hit!  See you next time for our third and final tip in the series.

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