Qualifying a Sale

In short, the decision a sales representative has to make is based on a set of preexisting criteria, whether or not your products and services are right for the prospect; and equally important, whether or not your prospect can benefit from this relationship.

Deciding this is a reciprocal relationship, may be one of the toughest and hardest decisions you will ever have to make as a sales person (some other time we will discuss ethics and integrity of a sale). It is also the one that will define you as a sales person. I warn you here, that if you are selling some sort of consultative service, make sure you realize that the benefits to your potential customer are well defined over time, and that real expectations are set prior to consummating the deal. What you do not want to happen is for your prospect realizing that his/her needs were not considered during the qualifying process.
How successful you are in qualifying prospects depends on how much pre-qualifying leg work you are willing to do. In a nutshell, get to know everything about your prospect and his business. I have divided successful qualifying into 3 steps:

Step 1:

Some sample questions I have found useful. You may add or omit some of them
depending on what you might already know and on the type of business it is:
What prompted you/ your company to look into this?
What are your expectations/ requirements for this product/ service?
What process did you go through to determine your needs?
How do you see this happening?
What is it that you’d like to see accomplished?
With whom have you had success in the past?
With whom have you had difficulties in the past?
Can you help me understand that a little better?
What does that mean?
How does that process work now?
What challenges does that process create?
What challenges has that created in the past?
What are the best things about that process?
What other items should we discuss?

Step 2:

At this point, you should be comfortable drilling down to the more technical, and vertical
specific questions. Make sure you discuss timelines, budgets, expectations, etc…If you
had prepared carefully during the prior phase, there should not be too many qualifying
questions, and they should be to the point.
Here is a sample of what I have found to be effective, and to the point. Again, use your
discretion to decide whether or not some these apply to your type of business:
What is your timeline for implementing/ purchasing this type of service/ product?
What other data points should we know before moving forward?
What budget has been established for this?
What are your thoughts?
Who else is involved in this decision?
What could make this no longer a priority?
What’s changed since we last talked?
What concerns do you have?
OK. You are not there yet. The next part is to analyze the answers. Personally, I assign
numeric values to each answer, say 1 through 5. 1 being least favorable match and 5
being most favorable match. You can now add them up. The next step is completely
subjective analysis: determining whether or not there is a fit. I assume this is how dating
sites matches potential dates. What you have done here is build a profile. Next, ask
your self, do my products and services best match the needs of this prospect. If you
decide to continue with the sale process, the next part of the is no less important.

Step 3:

This is where you must establish rapport, trust, and credibility. Please notice that in this
line of questions, you are specifically addressing the individual and his/her concerns. This
shows empathy and caring, not apathy or indifference.
How did you get involved in…?
What kind of challenges are personally you facing?
What’s the most important priority to you with this? Why?
What other issues are important to you?
What would you like to see improved?
How do you measure that?

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  • Joy Abdullah  On May 18, 2009 at 2:17 am

    This is indeed very helpful to a lot of us who, in our daily life, tend to forget that at all points we are “selling”.
    We are selling our point of view to our peers, our plans to achieve revenue targets to our bosses, our lack of time (with family) to our wife and kids. Whatever activity we do, through the day, “selling” is involved in it, in a manner of speaking.
    And in selling, the whole premise is on “relationship”. Because what we do is actually create, and develop a relationship and sell in more or be of service.
    Excellent starter points in both these posts that would help quite a few of us.
    Maybe a post on ‘relationship marketing’ would be helpful?


    • lotfisaibi  On May 19, 2009 at 12:29 am

      Joy. I am grateful to you taking the time to share your thoughts. I will be writing shortly about relationships and trust in selling. It is a very wide and interesting topic that keeps morphing in to other shapes and forms. I will be addressing how technology affects the relationships we help create.

  • Gabor  On May 18, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Lotfi,

    I also started a blog about a month ago with similar intentions as yourself. Although my career hasn’t ascended quite as high as yours, there are some similarities in “ups & downs”.

    Would you please check out my blog and perhaps leave a comment? I’m not getting the following that I thought I would and really need some candid feedback or ideas on how to expand it’s reach. Of course I will post comments on your site to try and help build momentum.

    Best regards,

    • lotfisaibi  On May 19, 2009 at 12:31 am

      Gabor. First, thanks for your feedback. This platform is to help us all, as it really belongs to no one. We can make of it what we want. I will be more than glad to share my opinions of your blog.

  • Dave Collins  On May 19, 2009 at 12:16 am

    All good questions, but do Step 3 first – to establish rapport and build trust.

    Also ask the client “Assuming you like what I have, what does it take for us to do business?”

    The reason to ask this is to uncover their process of bringing on a new vendor. You may face many issues including guarantees, bonding/insurance, payment schedules, face to face expectations, etc.

    You may find out that you don’t want to jump through their hoops to get the deal done once they say Yes.

  • lotfisaibi  On May 19, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Dave. You could not be more right. We are currently going through that process. We were so ecstatic when a prospect we had “worked” for so long invited us for a presentation. Only to find out that market conditions do not allow us to compete and make money in their arena.

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