In many ways, the idea of sales qualification is a relatively new phenomenon in sales.
Old-school, traditional salespeople used to go out and do basically no qualification. They would simply identify anyone with a pulse and immediately go straight into pitch mode.
Then a while back, a new group of sales thinkers came along who—while on the right track—tried a new approach that still didn’t amount to sales qualification.
They started asking vague, low-value questions of prospects such as, “What’s keeping you up at night?” and “Can I pick your brain to understand what’s going on in your world?”
Sales qualification is the new, improved result of melding these two worlds of selling together: Start conversations with real value, seeking to truly understand prospects. And at the same time, show prospects that we are the right person to solve their problems.
Sales qualification helps you understand whether someone is actually a fit, while establishing you as an expert—and as someone who prospects want to do business with.
In this video, I’m going to show you the 5 keys to create massive value during sales qualification. Check it out:
Sales Qualification Key #1: Establish authority first.
When it comes to sales qualification, the first thing you want to accomplish is establishing authority. Otherwise, why should the prospect be talking to you in the first place?
Don’t assume the prospect knows you are the right person to talk to in order to solve their problems. You can’t just show up and say, “I want to pick your brain to understand what’s going on in your world!” That’s low-value stuff.
First, you need to prove to them that you are someone whose questions are worth answering—someone who has the expertise they’re looking for.
So, how can you establish authority in that first discovery call? You can start with what I like to call your whiteboard pitch.
You’ll want to write out your whiteboard pitch in real-time while you’re talking to the prospect. So, if you’re on a virtual Zoom or GoToMeeting, share your screen and bring up Notepad or Word. If you’re face to face, use an actual whiteboard or even just a piece of paper.
Even the back of an envelope is fine! (The less technically savvy it is, sometimes the more authentic it can seem.)
Your whiteboard pitch is simple: Write out the top three challenges you see people facing in your prospect’s world. Then, elaborate on each challenge by explaining the “root cause” of that challenge. And finally, share at least one piece of data or research, or one statistic to back up your explanation.
As you write, narrate your whiteboard pitch by saying something like, “So, here are the three key challenges I’m seeing right now in your space. Challenge 1…Challenge 2…and Challenge 3. Challenge 1 is mainly caused by ______, and the data shows that ____. Challenge 2 typically happens when, and this is backed up by that statistic that ______…and Challenge 3 is usually the result of _____, and we have found in our research that _______…”
What you’re doing is laying out—in very quick, simple language—your understanding of the high-level challenges you see in your prospect’s industry. Then you’re just briefly touching upon the real root causes of those challenges, and citing data to back up your points.
At the end of your whiteboard pitch, ask, “Which of these three challenges rings most true to you?” This will get the prospect to start talking about their challenges—and you’re off to the races.
Sales Qualification Key #2: Engage around challenges.
Now that you’ve established authority with your whiteboard pitch, and gotten the prospect talking about their challenges, it’s time to dig deep to understand their top problems.
You want to understand exactly what’s happening around those challenges. What’s causing them? Who is affected? Why are the challenges occurring? Getting these answers is crucial to the sales qualification process.
I like to think of this phase of the discovery meeting as a doctor’s visit. I recently went to the doctor with my wife, who had an issue with her knee. The doctor asked my wife a bunch of really thoughtful questions, specific to the pain she was describing. He even took out a plastic replica of a knee to help her better explain—and understand—the discomfort she was feeling.
Wow. Right? He really took the time to understand my wife’s pain before recommending anything or jumping to conclusions. After that, we trusted him and were totally bought into his recommendations.
Emulate a good doctor by asking good, thoughtful questions of your prospects to really engage around their challenges. Here are some ideas:
“Can you give me an example of that challenge you just mentioned?”
“Tell me a little bit more about that…”
“I’m surprised to hear that. Can you help me understand, big picture, what you think is going on there?”
Take your time here. Little questions like these can pull some amazing information out of prospects. Play detective and try to understand what’s truly going on, engaging around those challenges on a deep level.
Sales Qualification Key #3: Learn the cost.
This next step is all about having a high-level sales qualification conversation. It’s time to understand the cost associated with the challenges you’ve just learned about.
What does the cost of those challenges really mean to the prospect’s organization? And what exactly is the cost, in dollar amount?
Once you’ve completed a thorough phase of engaging around challenges, simply ask your prospect, “Help me understand. What would you say these challenges that you’ve mentioned are really costing the organization?” Now they’re doing the ROI calculation themselves. Let them do the math.
I typically find that my clients will say something like, “Well, these challenges are costing us millions and millions of dollars.” In that case, I’ll reply, “I appreciate that. But if you had to ballpark a specific number, what would you say?” Then, the prospect will respond with a dollar amount, such as, “$10 million.”
And now I have the information I need—the challenges facing my prospect are costing the organization $10 million.
So, in this case, If I were able to solve those challenges, my solution would be worth $10 million in revenue. Right? At this point, I would dig deeper and say, “Okay, $10 million in revenue. So, give me a sense of what that would mean in actual profit.” So they might respond, “Well, $10 million in revenue, that’s $2 million in straight profit.”
Now I understand the cost, and we have talked about the dollars and cents. I’ve let the prospect determine the ROI of my solution. And that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Sales Qualification Key #4: Understand their drive.
The next piece of sales qualification is understanding what’s driving your prospects. What’s actually driving the prospect to be focused on this particular concern? What’s in it for them? Why does this matter to them?
To get answers to these questions, you might say, “I appreciate all the challenges you’ve mentioned, and you said that they’re costing you somewhere in the range of $10 million. But how are these challenges affecting you personally?”
The prospect might say, “My job depends on this.” Or, “I’m responsible for this, and if we don’t solve this issue, it’s on me.”
This is how you’re going to avoid so many objections down the road about price or whatever else. Because the prospect has just told you why it matters to them. Once you get the prospect to articulate what’s in it for them, the entire sales qualification process begins to come together.
Sales Qualification Key #5: Only present to their challenges.
And finally, it’s imperative that you only present to the prospect’s challenges.
One of the biggest mistakes that salespeople make in a presentation is that they present outside of the challenges the prospect has told them about.
Even if you do a thorough discovery and sales qualification process up until this point, a rambling, wide-ranging presentation will kill the sale. Only present to the challenges your prospect has mentioned to you. That’s it.
So, there you have it. Now you know the 5 keys to create massive value during sales qualification. Which of these ideas did you find most useful? Be sure to share your thoughts below in the comments section to join the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.