This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).

From Chapter 2 – The Right Skills: Qualifying

Once you are confident that your salesperson will make efforts to get meetings, you need to shift your focus. Getting meetings is great, but getting sales requires the right meetings.

What are the right meetings? These are the ones with prospects who are qualified. A qualified prospect is one who is both able to and likely to say yes to your offer.

The logic of qualifying is pretty clear. For a salesperson to spend time trying to sell to someone, the sales effort should not begin in earnest until it can be ensured that a positive outcome is both possible and probable. In spite of this, a truly extraordinary number of salespeople take a pass on qualifying. It is simultaneously mind-boggling and yet completely understandable.

It is mind-boggling because to move forward into the sales process with an unqualified prospect can easily result in an enormous expenditure of time, energy, money, and certainly opportunity cost. Qualifying is the part of the process where good salespeople learn if the person they are talking with is able to and likely to buy from them. When a salesperson decides to conduct a needs analysis, offer a proposal, and work to close the deal by answering objections and negotiating with a prospect who has not been qualified, it is simply a fool’s game. Why do all of that work to learn that the prospect is not qualified when qualifying is so straightforward?

So if it is mind-boggling that salespeople move forward in the sales process without qualifying, how then is this critical error at all understandable?

In the section on prospecting, we touched on the idea that prospecting is psychologically difficult. Yes, the best salespeople suck it up and do it anyway, but it is psychologically challenging nonetheless. The difficulty can be linked to our desire or need to be liked.

As noted previously, the need to be liked can overpower the need to ask tough questions like those necessary to properly qualify a prospect. Once a meeting has been secured, weaker salespeople may resist “pushing their luck” with a prospect by asking tough questions in qualifying that might wind up saving a lot of time in later stages of the process.

In many sales organizations, salespeople are not held accountable for their sales activities in any material way (more on this later). Compensation is mostly tied to showing up rather than to closing deals, and there is no well-defined sales process to hold salespeople accountable. Or there is usually no dedicated sales manager with the time to hold each salesperson accountable to the process. If you read this book and implement these ideas, this won’t be the case for you.

In a sales organization without accountability, it is better for the salesperson to go to meetings, talk to prospects, and provide the appearance of “doing sales” rather than succeeding in closing deals. Water takes the path of least resistance, and so do most humans ─ especially salespeople who are not held accountable. If at the end of the period they have sold enough to get by, how many deals they could have won but didn’t are never examined. What a waste!

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David