There are not too many sales experiences worse than being qualified over the telephone. Having someone waste your time asking your questions to prevent them from wasting their time is anti-value.
The industry standard requires one to ask the person if they already have the money to make a purchase, as there is no reason to spend time with people without a budget (even though many people can get the money). Passing the first test is a challenge to determine whether you have the authority to make a purchase (even though most B2B sales require consensus).
The third question looks for proof that you have a need, one of the dumber questions one might ask early in the conversation. This legacy approach mistakenly believes the client must already need to make them worth your while. And, finally, about the time you wonder when this painful, unsubtle waste of your time will ever end, the salesperson asks you by what date you need to have a solution in place.
Last week, the young brute that continually has his team call me to invite me to a networking conference, one that will no doubt be well attended by other young, self-oriented brutes, asking me “qualifying questions.” To punish him for his sales-related sins, I answered all his questions with answers that proved I was unqualified. Good people can still be bad salespeople without knowing it, so I was polite.
Qualifying Your Prospective Clients
It's not that qualifying is bad. It's that the experience for the client is bad when it is directly addressed and when it comes at the beginning of the conversation, one in which your client is expecting you to create value for them by helping them with a conversation about the better results they need.
Those who employ this qualifying strategy must not recognize there are no end of competitors and alternatives to what they sell, and unless they have a calendar with no white space because of the high demand for what they sell, they may want to talk to more people than fewer.
The Possibility of Exploring Change
Because the legacy approaches suggest you cannot sell something until there is a need or a problem or a pain point or a hot button, or any other term for a "need," they eliminate the possibility of exploring change.
There may be nothing better for your development than selling an undifferentiated commodity early in your career, especially if you must displace a competitor to win the client's business. When everyone you call on already has a provider for what you sell, you learn to have conversations that compel change. I share this experience with Jeb Blount and Mike Weinberg.
By exploring change, you can compel change. But not if you believe your client must already have a need, ignoring the truth that no one knows what they don't know. Exploring change allows you to create an opportunity.
The New Qualifications
While the brutes are out there providing a set of ancient qualifying questions, a B2B person has a different set of answers.
Delivery Model Fit: You have a high trust, high caring, high value delivery model. You create value greater than your competition, but to deliver that value, the client must pay more than they are investing now. You don't really want to wait until the very end of the sales conversation to share that your model requires the client to invest more.
Client Effort: You want your prospective client to be a willing and engaged partner in the process of helping them improve their results. A client who demonstrates that they are working as hard as you are on moving their change initiative is evidence you are working on the right deal. When your main contact isn't putting forth the effort required of them, you are almost certain to have problems.
Facilitating the Buyer's Journey: A client that rejects your advice and recommendations about how they should pursue better results is not likely to complete their journey with something that ends with the better results they needed. You want to ensure your clients have the right conversations with the right people at the right time.
Access to Leadership: Often, you are being vetted. This vetting process is to be certain you will not embarrass your main contact should they invite someone from leadership to a meeting. They need you to impress their leadership team. The larger the deal, the more you will need support from a company's leadership team. No access means you have a future obstacle.
Willingness to Engage the Organization: In large deals, your prospective client will need to give you access to some part of their organization. If they won't allow you to speak to people who are going to weigh in on whether to move forward with the change you are recommending or the decision to buy from you, it's difficult to win deals.
The Truth about Qualifying Your Prospects
The truth about qualifying is that it is not something that can be done in one conversation. Instead, you are always qualifying a deal, paying attention to the obstacles that might prevent the client from moving forward.
Your prospective client can answer every one of the four questions you find in BANT and still not be able to buy from you or your company. Instead of thinking about qualifying at the beginning, continually work to make certain the client will be able to move forward, decide, and successfully execute the change they need to make to improve their results.