The Key to Qualifying Opportunities

A question I regularly get asked is how do Sales Icons qualify opportunities. So in this article I’m going to uncover the criteria we swear by, which we’ve tried to keep as simplified as possible with one small addition to refine our qualification process.


So first of all why is qualifying prospects or opportunities so important? Well the same as most of the practices we recommend, it’s all about using our time as effectively as possible. Our dream scenario is to only ever focus on prospects whom are in prime buying condition, which reflectively should have the positive outcome of increasing both our sales and our close rates.


So how do we get to this heavenly scenario? Well effective qualification is one of the key steps. For those of you whom don’t understand the concept of qualification, what this means is a set of criteria to tell us that either yes they’re a worthy prospect, or not they’re not worth pursuing. Why would a prospect not be worth pursuing I hear you ask? Well that would be if they’re not going to buy from you (because of reasons I’ll disclose).


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Think of it like dating, every person in this world has a certain type of person they’re attracted to. Some people have a very niche set of criteria, others have a very wide set of criteria. Whatever that criteria is, it would be defined as your dating qualification criteria.


Most of you understood qualification already, but in case you didn’t then the dating analogy should help.


So what should your sales qualification criteria be? What’s the minimum set of criteria for a prospect or opportunity to be worthy of further activity, say a meeting or other time investments?


Now if you have some criteria already then great, why not review what you have with what we advise and see if yours can be bolstered or refined. If you’re in the position whereby you have no qualification criteria then change that fact today!


So before I share with you the Sales Icon qualification criteria, I want to gain your buy in by highlighting some examples of failing to qualify a prospect or opportunity. Here I’m going to dwell on my own experiences.


I’ve worked for numerous businesses in my time in varying sales roles and I can think of many occasions where I’ve been booked a meeting which hasn’t been qualified sufficiently. I can remember on one occasion I was working for a business to business IT provider which specialised in mid-enterprise solutions, usually the 100-500 seat sized businesses. On this such occasion I was booked a meeting with a one user Pilates business to talk about their IT systems.


ONE USER!!! I might as well of just sat at home and wasted the hour watching television, there was no way we could help a one user business. Evidently this was not qualified in any manner and the result was that I wasted not only my own but also the prospects time as we couldn’t help them!


Don’t get things misconstrued though, I’ve fallen foul of this too in failing to qualify an opportunity. I can remember early on in my career, eager as ever to succeed in sales, I made this mistake and learnt a harsh but valuable lesson. I booked a meeting with an estate agency (realtor), meticulously steered them down the sales process, involved peers, put together detailed propositions, invested days of time all for them to tell me at the end of the sales process that we were far too expensive and that they’d never pay that amount!


Had my mistake been in my sales acumen, no, my mistake was early on, in qualifying the prospect or opportunity. Had I known then what I know now, I would have from the outset analysed them with my qualification criteria and deemed them not worthy. Then, I wouldn’t have wasted days of my own and my colleagues time, plus I could re-purpose that time on selling to qualified prospects.


So hopefully I’ve painted the picture of why qualification is essential. Now onto what the qualification criteria should be.


I’ve seen so many variants of qualification criteria in my time, some business try to make this so complex which causes it to become a minefield. We at Sales Icon Coaching try to keep it simple. We advocate the technique of BANT which you may have heard of before.


Loosely speaking, the qualifying goes as follows:


B – Budget – has budget been approved and/or is this in my size requirements

A – Authority – does the person your interacting with have the authority to make the decision

N – Need – do they have a need for my solution or product

T – Timescale – What’s the timescales for opting for this solution or product


How you use this BANT criteria and qualify prospects is down to you. For instance if you only work with Enterprise customers then a small business is going to fail on the Budget aspect of the criteria.


So the BANT criteria should cover most of your qualification, but in our view there is an element missing, and this qualification is more subtle. What happens in the circumstance when an opportunity or prospect meets all your qualifying criteria yet you have a feeling you’ll never win it?


Let me use an example. I was working with a Sales Icon whom qualified an opportunity with an online jewellery manufacturer. They did a great job of qualifying the opportunity and ticked off all of the criteria they required for BANT. But what they overlooked was something else. See I was involved in the sales process with them and whilst the opportunity met all the BANT criteria, the prospect also gave away some key indications on the type of business and type of buyers they were. On countless occasions they made comments like “we try to sweat the asset,” “we want to reduce costs,” “we opt for entry level solutions.” It was statements like these which told me they were very cost centric. The trouble this Sales Icon had was that his business and his solution was a premium, therefore whilst he had met all of his BANT criteria I could tell it was unlikely he’d ever get this sale as the prospect didn’t match their solution.


It is from circumstances like this which have lead us to adapt the qualifying criteria to include one simply question after the BANT criteria and that’s:


Are They The Right Fit?


What I mean by this question is asking yourself if the opportunity or prospect is the right fit for your business or solution. It’s slightly subjective but key to qualification. If we correctly answer this question in the qualifying process then we’ll save a great deal of time on opportunities which will never turn to sales.


So when you’re next qualifying, use the BANT criteria. Then ask yourself if they’re the right fit? If they’re not then don’t waste your time with them.


I’d love to hear your feedback once you’ve tried our qualifying criteria, do get in touch!

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