One of the most powerful things a sales manager can do to be more proactive is to equip his or her team with the skills to properly qualify their leads, says Skip Miller, president of M3 Learning and author of ProActive Selling: Control the Process – Win the Sale (AMACOM, 2003). “Make sure the deals are qualified,” says Miller. “Qualification of a deal is a skill that, if mastered, will affect a salesperson’s success more than anything else.”
Miller says the qualification process comes down to three probing areas: money, method and motivation. By asking incisive questions in these areas, salespeople can get essential qualification information. Consider some of Miller’s recommended questions.
Money. Salespeople should ask what questions, rather than who questions regarding money. “Who questions limit the discussions to people. What questions focus the discussion on people, processes and who has the power,” explains Miller. Ask: What is the process for obtaining a budget? What is the process for making a decision?
Method. For this topic Miller suggests asking: What is the implementation date? What are the steps in the buy-sell process? What are the decision criteria? These questions help get out of the indecision trap. “All qualified deals will have an implementation date,” Miller says. In addition, finding out the buy-sell process and decision criteria sets a path on which the salesperson and prospect can move forward.
Motivation. Questions about why the buyer is buying will complete the qualification process. Salespeople must determine if there is a real need for their product or service, and if they really can meet the need. “Meeting the need is not just a product fit. You must meet the business-case need, the product-fit need and the process-fit need,” reminds Miller.
After you’ve answered the previous motivational questions in the affirmative, there’s one more step: Asking prospects what specific benefits they’ll receive from your proposed solution. The answer must be from their lips, in their words – and it must be true.
Miller says, “A qualified sales process is worth its weight in gold. By knowing the answers to the MMM questions, and making sure those answers are positive toward your solution, you’ll have a better than 50% chance of winning the sale.”
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