Generally speaking, you should never move forward with a prospect until you qualify them.

However, no generalization is ever right all of the time, including this one.

In my blog, book, sales practice, consulting practice, sales training sessions, etc., etc., etc., I come down pretty hard on the foolishness of moving into needs analysis, proposal and then attempting to close a prospect that has not yet been qualified, and for three good reasons:

1 – It is a waste of time to do so
2 – Too many salespeople do it, and the reminder seems needed
3 – It is a waste of time to do so

Why it is a waste of time seems clear, especially when qualification is defined as I do in Mastering Your Sales Process:

  • Is there a current need
  • Is there money to pay for the solution
  • Are you connected to the decision maker

Unless you confirm these three things, you don’t know if the person you are talking to is able to or willing to buy from you. Why would you waste time moving forward until you knew these things?

If you do move forward without qualification, you set yourself up for unavoidable and insurmountable objections, such as:

  • It’s just not a priority for us now
  • We don’t have it in the budget, or
  • I can’t make that decision, you will need to talk to…

If you qualify well, then you get these potential deal killing objections out of the way BEFORE you do the work of needs analysis and proposal writing. That makes much more sense than the alternative.

…but…

In spite of the logic of this “qualify first” approach and the seemingly hard rules I lay down about the need for qualification before moving on, there are exceptions.

For example – if you have been in sales long enough, you came across that one crazy customer who takes more time than you think you should be spending on them, is very elusive about whatever you ask – and yet – might for some reason be potentially huge.

In this case, sometimes, you need to bend the rules and go for it. Sometimes.

I like to think of this as “speculative investing” as you might do in the stock market. Speculative investing is fine, if you do it with a small percentage of your income. If you have paid off your debts, have enough cash to meet your current needs, and have most of your money invested conservatively, then there is nothing wrong with taking 1-10% of your investable cash and going for that wild start up company, or the Chinese Malago farm (I made that up) or some other kooky scheme that may not work out, but will be huge if it does.

Failure to qualify should be the same. If there is some potentially huge prospect that defies the rules but could be huge, go for it – sometimes – with a small percentage of your time, and after all of your other obligations are tended to. It might not pay off, but it might – and that makes “qualified” rule breaking worth it – sometimes…..

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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