Stop Qualifying, Start Disqualifying

Posted on February 24, 2011. Filed under: Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales Funnel, Sales Management, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Every seller has been told, trained, coached and coddled to qualify his sales opportunities. The better you are at qualification the more productive you’ll be.

The past several years I’ve seen a few books and sales methods that recommend ‘getting to no‘, ‘starting with no’, or just ‘saying no.’ No kidding.

I like this theme in general because in a different, potentially very effective way it reminds us to do things that make us productive when we sell. Things like qualifying effectively, doing discovery, getting to the right stakeholders, and getting commitment throughout the buying process.

Adopting an attitude of ‘no’ is like adopting an attitude of disqualifying sales opportunities instead of qualifying.

For example if you call on a stakeholder who has a problem but no authority to change and you don’t uncover this lack of authority you risk spending way too much time on this person. Repeated calls back to this person might feel like you’re making progress but structurally it’s simple. You’re not. You’re doing a poor job of qualifying. Qualifying questions for me in my business might take the following form:

“So tell me, what is it about your sales funnel process that you’re not satisfied with?”

“It’s affecting your forecasting accuracy you say? How far off are your forecasts typically?”

“Have any of your sales managers mentioned how much time it takes them to do funnel inspections?”

If I hear what I hope to hear I’m tempted to walk away thinking I’ve got a qualified opportunity. I’ll get some valuable information but if I stop here I could be wrong. If I take a disqualifying approach I walk into the call prepared to ask questions that challenge the stakeholder to tell me why they would take the time and energy to act on these needs. These disqualifying questions are looking beyond need to incentive and motivation to change.

Most VPs of Sales will agree or admit that their sales process isn’t 100% satisfying and delivering desired results. There’s always room to improve. But for me to sell the VP the VP has to have energy and motivation to change.

My ‘disqualifying’ type questions might uncover that if they look like this:

“I appreciate you telling me that your forecasting isn’t as accurate as it needs to be. But you said it’s been like this for as a while. What’s the incentive to do something about it now?”

“You said you expect a record year of sales this year. Congratulations. May I ask, what’s the business case for making changes now to your sales process?” Wouldn’t you be concerned that making changes now could jeopardize a good thing?

Let’s say I’m meeting with the stakeholder who has a problem but no authority. Here’s a disqualifying question I might ask:

“I appreciate that you’re having some issues that you’d like resolved. Who else in the company would have to be sold on taking the time and possibly money to fix these issues?

“How would you go about selling these people on a need to change?”

“What incentive would they have to change right now?”

These questions might be subtle but I think they’re subtly significant. Let’s put the burden of proof onto the stakeholders we’re calling on to show us that they have incentive and energy to sponsor change.

Advertisements
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Sales Velocity and the Funnel

Posted on February 2, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

One of my clients, a director of sales, gave me solicited input in a meeting I was preparing to facilitate for him and his colleagues and the VP of Sales last year.  This was an existing Funnel Principle client looking for ways to leverage the system they installed a few years earlier.  “Let’s make sure we talk about sales velocity”, he said.

“Absolutely”, I replied.  Then I asked, “If you had better or more information about sales velocity for your region funnel how would you use that information to manage better?”

He replied almost before I finished the question.  “I don’t know.  But it seems like I should know more about it.”

Metrics like sales velocity are valuable for many reasons.  Whether your company has a sophisticated system of metrics, or keeps metrics to a bare minimum, or has no metrics at all you all share a common need to make the information you gather meaningful to your troops.   Ultimately, their greatest value is the role they play in changing or reinforcing selling behavior.

Funnel value (we call it TVR, Total Viable Revenue) is probably the most common metric that I hear VPs of Sales say they want to have and provide for their salesforce.  I agree it’s a valuable metric but only if it’s acted upon.  I continue to see a gap in having that information and in driving change.  I see two reasons for this.  One is because the users don’t trust the data on their funnels.  Therefore, the funnel value has little credibility.  Two, there’s a lack of connection between funnel value and actions to run a territory.

TVR is a key leading indicator to the true health of a funnel.  It’s all the sales on the funnel that have reached a critical stage of the customer’s buying process called Commit Funding.  At this stage the customer has committed funding and possibly significant resources to making a change one way or another.

The best way to connect TVR to actions is to inspect the funnel regularly and use the information to plan, organize and execute.  Think ‘lean’ for a second.  If a rep’s TVR is in the red, the action plan has to include ways to get it to green.  These ways are tied to working specific accounts and opportunities at specific sections of the funnel, namely the non TVR sections.  These are the early stage opportunities.  You go there first to find more TVR.

An action plan to find more TVR if that’s what the diagnosis suggests is not a loose, airy, feel-good next step kind of thing.  It’s specific and therefore accountable.

It’s the sales manager’s job to help the seller define this plan and keep her accountable to it.

Ain’t rocket science.  But man it is powerful.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Hit the ground running in 2011

Posted on January 4, 2011. Filed under: Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Management, Sales pipeline | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

With another year of selling behind you, the important thing to remember is it’s gone.

I salute you if you had a great year and I’m sorry if your year didn’t turn out as you wanted.  For this new year all runners line up at the same starting line once again.

The sales numbers might not lie but they don’t always tell the entire truth either.  Therefore, regardless of last year’s results the important thing to do is to learn.   I devote this entire week’s blog to last year and helping you learn from it.    This week I’ll discuss:

  • 4 key sales metrics to understand the raw numbers
  • 3 key funnel management metrics that every salesperson must manage to
  • 2 key metrics related to lead generation and the customer buying process

As you read through the entries and perform the review remember this:

  • Be honest with your assessment and answers.
  • Be factual.  The better ‘data’ you have about your performance the better your analysis will be.
  • Give yourself credit for doing the exercise.  The vast majority of sellers don’t do this.

Here are the 9 metrics I’ll cover:

1-      Number of sales made

2-      Size of sales

3-      Percent of sales coming from existing customers versus new customers

4-      Mix of sales (if you sell more than one product or service)

5-      Win rate

6-      Velocity

7-      Push rate – percent of sales that don’t close within the timeframe you originally state

8-      Lead source

9-      Funnel stage of discovering the lead

In the next blog post, I’ll tackle the first four.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...