When you are done with prospecting and entering a sales conversation with a prospective client, the next thing that should happen is qualification. This process confirms that the person you are communicating with is both able to and likely to say yes to your offer.
So what does it mean to be “able to” and “likely to” say yes? It doesn’t mean you need to get a commitment in advance (although it is OK if you do), but you’ll want to identify at least four things about the prospect before you continue trying to move into the next steps of the sales process:
- Is this person the decision maker?
- Is there “pain” that needs to be alleviated?
- Is there a budget to fix the source of the pain, insofar as your company may offer a solution?
- Are there some industry- or company-specific criteria that need to be met in order to consider the prospect qualified?
If you can get an affirmative answer to these questions, the person you are talking to is both able to say yes (he or she is the decision maker and has the money for your solution) and likely to say yes (he or she has some form of pain that your product or service can alleviate). But the absence of any one of these elements greatly increases the likelihood that a sale will not happen.
You also must realize this: If there are 100 people in a company, then 100 of them can say no to you. The janitor can say no, the secretary can say no, the summer intern can say no. On the other hand, only a few, and maybe even only one person in the company, can say yes to your sales offer. Qualification is about making sure that you are talking to one or all of the people who can say yes and finding out if they are likely to do so.
For some reason, people will make meetings with you even if they cannot make an affirmative decision about your product or service. If you don’t figure this out before you go through the entire sales process, your overall efficiency will be dramatically reduced. You must understand the decision-making apparatus of the organization you are trying to sell to and if at all possible be in direct contact with the decision maker throughout your sales process. You can be successful if you break this rule, but your work will be a lot more difficult.
This is why you must establish who the decision maker is before moving too far into the sales process, wasting valuable time and energy that you could direct at a more qualified prospect. Selling to unqualified prospects is a loser’s game. So find out early if the game is worth playing, then play hard or move on accordingly.