Category: Sales Qualification

Sales

8 Reasons Why Prospects Don’t Buy from You

It doesn’t matter how good you are at selling, your close rate will never be 100%. But if you’re consistently losing deals you should have won, there’s probably a reason — if not several.

Fortunately, once you diagnose the cause, you can improve your process, and ultimately, your results.

1. You’re trying to sell to everyone.

What this sounds like: “I’m not sure my company really needs .”

A good sales pipeline is about quality, not quantity. If your prospects aren’t buying from you, reevaluate the quality of your opportunities. Have they been carefully targeted? Do you know why they’re good fits? Or are you simply trying to sell to anyone who shows the slightest bit of interest in your product?

While it might seem counterintuitive to walk away from anyone, narrowing your focus to the most qualified prospects will make you more successful. Not only are these buyers far likelier to pull the trigger, you’ll have also more time to spend on each one — letting you personalize your outreach and develop compelling business cases.

2. You’re driving customers away.

What this sounds like: “I’m not interested; please stop contacting me.”

There’s a reason most people never answer calls from unknown numbers anymore: They don’t want to be sold to. And if reps continue to use email as a spamming tool — rather than a means of genuinely connecting with and helping prospects — messages from strangers will begin to go unanswered as well. (Even more so than right now.)

Dial back the fake enthusiasm. Stop pestering your prospects. Instead, act like yourself and provide real value. It might be helpful to envision yourself as a consultant rather than a salesperson. You should also learn as much as possible about your prospects so you don’t waste their time asking for basic information like how large their company is and what they sell.

3. You’re not surfacing objections.

What this sounds like: “Actually, X is a pretty big concern for us, so I think we’re going to [go with Y competitor, pass].”

I get it: Digging for objections is scary. Once you acknowledge them, they’re out there — concrete reasons the prospect shouldn’t buy. But the reality is, objections exist whether or not you hear them … and the best (really the only) time to resolve those concerns is in the beginning and middle stages of the sales process, while the buyer’s mind is still open.

To learn what’s keeping your prospect back from purchasing right this second, ask:

  • “If this didn’t go through, what would the reason be?”
  • “We’ve talked about why you like — can we spend some time on what you don’t like?”
  • “It’s very normal to have some concerns about this type of purchase. Are you open to sharing yours with me, if you have them?”
  • “We’ve discussed ‘pros.’ What’s on the ‘cons’ side of the list for you?”

4. You’re not creating urgency.

What this sounds like: “Maybe next [quarter, year].”

Your product may be your primary focus, but to your prospect, it’s just another thing fighting for their attention. Without a reason to buy now rather than later, the deal is likely to die on the vine. Want it to come to fruition? Then ask probing questions that reveal why the buyer’s business or well-being somehow hinges on having the product.

Here are five examples:

  • “What happens if you don’t solve this problem by [X date]?”
  • “Describe the consequences of missing [Y goal].”
  • “Can you explain what’s riding on [Z strategy]?”
  • “Is [fixing, addressing, improving] this a priority right now? Where would you say it falls on your list of priorities?”
  • “How long has this been an issue? Why are you focusing on it now?”

5. You aren’t helping them feel safe.

What this sounds like: “I’m not sure we’re ready for this yet.”

No one wants to put their neck on the line for something they’re not 100% confident about. This fact kills many deals; after all, think about what would happen to your prospect if they advocated for your product, successfully got the budget, led a time- and resource-intensive implementation initiative — and then the solution was ineffective, or worse, completely flopped.

They might not be out of a job, but their internal reputation would definitely suffer.

That’s why part of your job involves making them feel comfortable with the investment and the risks involved. You can do this in several ways.

First, if your company offers any purchase protection terms — like full refunds, a trial period, or your money back if you don’t see certain results — make sure to highlight those throughout your conversations.

You should also establish credibility by:

  • Referring to current customers — the more well-known, the better
  • Sending case studies and testimonials to your prospect
  • Offering to connect them with references
  • Sharing positive online reviews you’ve gotten
  • Bringing up any awards or industry honors your product or company has received

6. You aren’t selling value.

What this sounds like: “This isn’t a priority for us at the moment.”

Pro-tip: as a sales professional you aren’t selling products and services — you’re selling the value these products and services can offer to the end-user.

Buyers don’t care about what the product is, or what features it has. They care about how that product or feature is going to make their lives easier. When you sell the value of the product, you’re positioning your offer to be something the prospect can’t out-prioritize or be without.

As you work with the prospect, help them get clear on how much simpler, better, or easier life will be once they implement your offer. Selling from this angle communicates the value your product can add to their lives, and they will be more likely to prioritize — or make room in their budget for it, because life without it will seem much more expensive in the long run.

7. You aren’t listening to them.

What this sounds like: “That isn’t quite what we’re looking for.”

Active listening is a key competency for salespeople. If your prospect gets all the way to the end of your sales process and says “this isn’t what I’m looking for,” somewhere along the line there was a missed opportunity to hear their perspective.

If your conversations with your prospects are all one-sided (meaning you’re talking at them instead of having a conversation with them), you can likely yield better results by incorporating active listening practices during your sales conversations. On your calls, make sure you take the time to:

  • Repeat back what you hear the prospect say to confirm understanding. “What I heard you say was… Is that correct?”
  • Ask thoughtful questions to help the prospect communicate their perspective.
  • Pause throughout the conversation to give them time and space to share.

8. Your sales process is broken.

If you find many prospects don’t make it far enough in your sales process to raise an objection, that’s a good indication your sales process is broken, or that your funnel has a leak that needs to be addressed.

In this scenario, that could mean your prospects are either not being properly qualified, or there is a missed opportunity to follow-up and nurture leads who are qualified. Work with your team to go through your sales process step-by-step and identify areas that could be improved upon for a better buyer experience.

Learning it’s not them, it’s you, is never fun. But now that you’ve figured out what’s going wrong, you can take the appropriate steps.

Editor’s note: Marc Wayshak contributed to a previous version of this post.

Sales

5 Ways to Work with Pre Qualified Leads

Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without a healthy book of existing customers and a steady stream of new customers, a business can’t grow.

This is why most businesses have a sales funnel — a way of bringing in potential customers and working with them until they become buyers. This is where your marketing team and your sales team work together to create success for the company.

Set up properly, it’s a wonderful system. However, if leads are passed too early, not followed up on, or handled poorly, your bottom line will suffer. In order for this to work, you need to understand the difference between a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified (or pre qualified) lead.

What is a marketing qualified lead?

One of the most common ways to attract potential customers is through content marketing. By consistently creating content, answering questions, and positioning yourself or your business as the authority on a topic, you attract individuals who want to do business with you. When they look for more of what you provide, these leads qualify themselves and move to the next step of your sales funnel.

These marketing qualified leads (MQLs) will sometimes select themselves to do business with you. The limitation of these leads is that they may only fit some of your criteria.

Let’s say you’ve published a wonderfully informative post on your topic. The individuals that read or download it may be looking to buy what you sell, or they may just be doing research. These individuals could be students looking for information, or even your competitors investigating your offerings.

How do you tell if your MQL is an actual potential buyer or if reaching out to them would be a waste of your time and resources?

Adding another step to the process will help you attract more “real” customers and close more sales. Using pre qualified sales leads is a way to ensure that the people who move to the next step of your funnel (and who get more of your attention) have the ability to become customers. It’s a more targeted way to approach customers and could yield some impressive results.

Focusing on pre qualified leads is one way to take an active approach to your sales process. Instead of standing by hoping your content gets the right attention and your call-to-action is strong enough to convert, you are actively seeking out leads, then vetting them on a set of predetermined criteria.

Where do these predetermined criteria come from?

There are two ways. The first is by understanding your customer avatar or buyer persona. Who are your existing customers? What problems did they come to you to solve? What are their buying behaviors? With this data, you can extrapolate out to who is most likely to purchase what you are selling.

The other way to approach this is by determining what criteria your customer has to fulfill to be able to do business with you. First, do they actually need your product? Second, do they have enough money to buy it? Third, do they have the authority to buy what you are selling (or would someone else have to sign off on the purchase). Finally, do they have a pressing need for your product now?

For example, let’s say you are selling a luxury car for $95k. Sure, you could write blogs and create videos about the benefits of driving a luxury car and capture their emails to market to them going forward, but how many of your consumers can actually afford to buy one?

Purchasing a $95k car requires a certain income level, lifestyle, and other factors. If you pre qualify your leads, you may have fewer prospects in your funnel, but they could be higher quality prospects.

Pre qualifying leads may be just what your business was missing.

5 Ways to Work with A Pre Qualified Lead

Consider your current sales process.

When a marketing qualified lead enters your sales funnel, what do you do? Do you wait until they purchase something before contacting them or continue sending them generic messaging? Do your salespeople receive their information from marketing as soon as they come in so they can reach out to them? Or, do you have a special team who handles your potential customers before they are handed off to your salespeople?

In order to move potential customers to the next stage of your funnel or customer journey, you’ll want to reconsider how you are handling MQLs and SQLs.

1. Your marketing team is responsible for managing MQLs. Your sales team is responsible for managing SQLs.

If you give the responsibility of qualifying leads to your salespeople, you may spread your sales team too thin and take their focus off what needs to be done to close their deals.

Instead of having them waste time determining if a potential customer has the ability to buy, leave that to your marketing team. Dedicate some staff to handling MQLs as they come in and vetting them for their likelihood to purchase. Once the less viable prospects have been weeded out, it’s time to get the remaining potential customers over to your sales people. They are the ones who will close the deal.

2. Be patient.

For many salespeople, their livelihood depends on the sale. However, if they jump in too soon, the lead may not be primed for action and the sale may be lost. Build adequate time for communication into your sales process, and give marketing the time they need to do their job properly before initiating the close.

3. Determine the best way to sell.

When the lead changes hands from marketing to sales, the sales rep should have adequate information about the lead to help them close the deal. After speaking with the lead and building rapport, your marketing team will have some insight into their personality and buying habits.

Sharing this information with the sales team allows them to take a more personalized approach and see a better outcome.

4. Increase your follow-up game.

Once a prospect has been deemed able and likely to buy, you need to make sure your offer stays top of mind. This is not the time to leave one voicemail and never follow-up again. The average deal requires up to five follow-ups before it is closed.

Be strategic and thoughtful with how you approach following up with your leads. Use the information you have from pre qualification to follow-up in a meaningful way.

5. Don’t ignore prospects who aren’t ready to buy.

Just because someone doesn’t currently fit your criteria for a qualified lead doesn’t mean they never will. If they seem interested but it isn’t a good time for them to buy, keep in touch with them to stay top of mind until they are ready to start working on a deal.

They may require different messaging to speak to their pain points, more education to understand the solution, or more assistance to overcome their objections. Work with them until they are ready to move on to the next stage.

Working with your marketing team to pre qualify your leads before they reach your sales department is the best way to free up time and energy for reps to do what they do best — sell.

By using these tactics, you’ll have the opportunity to better serve your customers and you’ll have happier employees in the process. Check out this post to learn more about qualifying leads for the sale.

Sales

A Step-by-Step Guide to the MEDDIC Sales Qualification Process

Properly qualifying prospective customers is tough.

It takes a lot of energy to identify new leads and move them through the qualification process. Sometimes, you may not discover a new lead is a poor fit until after you’ve spent hours on research and calls.

If your sales team is struggling to speak to the right customers or close deals, try the MEDDIC sales qualification process.

What is the MEDDIC sales qualification?

The MEDDIC sales qualification process is a framework of questions used to qualify prospects and potential buyers. It stands for Metrics, Economic buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identify pain, and Champion.

MEDDIC was pioneered in the 1990s by Jack Napoli.At technology company PTC, Napoli and his co-founder used MEDDIC to triple sales from $300 million to $1 billion in just four years.

Why is MEDDIC so powerful? Well, it sets itself apart from other sales qualification processes by emphasizing thorough buyer qualification.

By understanding every component of a prospect’s purchase process, MEDDIC helps organizations forecast sales with more accuracy and efficiently close more deals. (This is especially valuable for enterprise-level B2B companies who routinely make million-dollar deals.)

Below, we’ll unpack the steps in the MEDDIC sales qualification process. First, let’s discuss why MEDDIC is a valuable qualification framework.

Why should you use MEDDIC?

The MEDDIC sales qualification framework helps you properly identify and qualify your prospects. With better-qualified customers, your sales organization can see higher close rates and greater success.

Moreover, if your business sells highly-technical or complex products, expensive products, or products that require a notable shift in user behavior, MEDDIC is a valuable framework to use. By using MEDDIC to thoroughly evaluate and qualify your prospective customers early in the sales process, your sales team can dedicate their valuable resources to customers who are the most likely to close.

Take it from Brian Halligan, who worked at PTC before founding HubSpot: “From $0 to $100 million, PTC was successful because we sold a better widget. From $100 million to $1 billion, however, we sold a shift in technology. MEDDIC became important because it’s not just any old purchase — it’s a transformation of the business.”

Lastly, MEDDIC is a straightforward sales qualification framework. It serves as a checklist of information to obtain, not a laundry list of sales tricks or “best practices” to try out until one sticks. For this reason, MEDDIC can be taught and mastered by even the most novice salespeople.

Where MEDDIC can get complicated is not in its execution but in preparing your sales team to seek the right information according to your buyer personas.

Your sales qualification process can only operate as well as you’ve prepared your target buyer information, meaning that if you don’t know the ins and outs of your buyer persona, you won’t know what questions to ask during the MEDDIC process.

Create professional, customizable buyer personas in minutes with the help of our free Make My Persona generator.

Before you jump into the MEDDIC sales qualification steps, ensure you’ve established your buyer persona(s) and thoroughly trained your sales team on that information.

MEDDIC Sales Qualification Steps

As defined above, MEDDIC has six main qualification steps.

1. Metrics

Discover what quantifiable goals your prospect hopes to achieve. Establishing these metrics allows you to describe the benefit of your solution as it specifically pertains to your prospect.

For example, your prospect tells you they want to drive 100,000 new monthly visitors to their website (versus the vague goal of “more traffic”).

Understanding that this metric matters so much to your prospect enables you to customize the economic benefit of your product or service in a way that relates to their business goals.

Questions to ask

  • What goals are you hoping to achieve?
  • How would you measure success?

2. Economic Buyer

Find out who has the power to spend the appropriate budget. Who makes the financial decisions as they pertain to the solution you’re selling? This person may not be the point of contact you’ve established at the company, but they’re important nonetheless as they have sway over if your deal closes.

Get in touch with the economic buyer if possible. If you can’t speak directly to them, work with your point of contact to understand their mindset, expectations, priorities, decision-making process so that you can appeal your pitch to their motivations.

Questions to ask

  • What does success look like for you?
  • Is anyone else involved in the final decision?

3. Decision Criteria

Understand how your prospect’s company makes decisions about purchases similar to your solution. They’re likely comparing many different vendor choices and are weighing their options based on a few important factors — their decision criteria.

Depending on your solution (i.e. if you’re selling a software product), prospective companies could be examining and comparing criteria like ease of use, onboarding and integration, price versus budget, and potential ROI. Get a clear answer on what you’re prospect is looking at so you can tailor your pitch to highlight these criteria.

Questions to ask

  • What are the most important criteria for you when making this decision?
  • How might you justify this purchase?

4. Decision Process

In addition to the decision criteria, you must also understand your prospect’s decision process— the internal steps followed to actually finalize a decision. Once you get familiar with this process, you can follow along and ensure your sale doesn’t fall to the wayside or hit an ambiguous roadblock.

Ask your point of contact to walk you through the typical process. Understand who’s involved in meetings to discuss the decision, what paperwork is required, and what types of approval processes need to happen to close the deal.

Questions to ask

  • Who do you need to talk to finalize this decision?
  • What kind of paperwork needs to get pushed through?

5. Identify Pain

It’s impossible to explain the value of your solution if you don’t know what problems your prospect is trying to solve. Identify the pain points your prospect is facing before you tailor your pitch to explain how your product or service can alleviate that pain.

Just as you gathered quantifiable metrics around your prospect’s goals, ask your prospect to be just as specific about their pains and problems. For example, if your prospect is “struggling to drive website traffic,” dig deeper to uncover just how much traffic they’re missing or how many potential conversions they lose from that traffic. These numbers can help you tailor your pitch to be the most helpful and poignant solution.

Questions to ask

  • How does [problem] affect your business and bottom line?
  • What happens if you do nothing?

6. Champion

Your champion is someone inside your prospect’s company — your point of contact or perhaps the person who’d benefit the most from your solution — who advocates for you to decision-makers and the economic buyer.

This person is important to keeping your solution top-of-mind and maintaining interest among the folks who can finalize the sale, especially if your solution is a big-ticket item. Be mindful of who you choose to be your champion; their respect and influence (or lack thereof) can influence your sale.

Questions to ask

  • What is this person’s interest in your product or solution?
  • Can they accurately explain the product’s benefits as they relate to the company?

To implement MEDDIC, first train your sales team on your buyer personas. Once they understand how your product or service relates to the ideal customer, encourage them to start applying the MEDDIC framework to sales calls and documenting the conversations. The specific questions will vary depending on the prospect, but the themes should remain the same.

To somewhat automate this process, consider creating templates for discovery calls in your CRM. This can serve as a guide for salespeople still getting comfortable with the MEDDIC process.

MEDDIC equips your sales team to truly understand and properly qualify your customers. This allows them to spend more time on deals that are likely to close — and boosts sales success and morale in the process.

Sales

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Qualification

One of the most important conversations salespeople have with their prospects is the discovery call.

Here lies the proverbial fork in the road for you and your prospect. Either they’re a good fit for your product or service and you can move forward with the relationship, or it’s time to part ways.

But it’s not always immediately obvious which path to take. That’s where sales qualification comes in.

By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to determine whether the relationship should continue, and if so, what next steps are appropriate. This guide will walk you through the fundamentals of sales qualification, five different frameworks you can use, and provide pointers on disqualification and conversational tip-offs to listen for.

What is a qualified prospect?

A discovery call is where you might do the bulk of your qualification, but it certainly isn’t where qualification starts or ends. At every step of the sales process, you’ll continuously evaluate prospects for more and more specific characteristics.

According to Bob Apollo, the founder of sales consulting group Inflexion Point, there’s a hierarchy to qualification. That is, sales reps must qualify prospects at three different levels — what Apollo terms “organization-level,” “opportunity-level,” and “stakeholder-level” sales qualification.

Organization-Level Qualification

This is the most basic level of qualification, and doesn’t tell you much other than whether you should do more research. If your company has buyer personas, reference them when qualifying a prospect. Does the buyer match the demographics of a given persona?

Questions you should ask at this stage include:

  • Is the prospect in your territory?
  • Do you sell to their industry?
  • What’s the company size?
  • Does the account fit your company’s buyer persona?

Opportunity-Level Qualification

This form of qualification is probably what you thought of when you read the title of this post. Opportunity-level sales qualification is where you determine whether your prospect has a specific need or challenge you can satisfy and whether it’s feasible for them to implement your particular product or service. The other half of a good buyer persona, opportunity-level characteristics give insight into whether a prospect could benefit from your offering.

For suggestions of questions you can ask to qualify at the opportunity level, see below.

Stakeholder-Level Qualification

Let’s say you’ve determined that your prospect’s company is a good match for your solution and fits your ideal buyer persona. It’s time to get into the nitty-gritty — can your point of contact actually pull the trigger on a purchase decision?

To determine this, ask the following:

  • Will this purchase come out of your budget?
  • Who else is involved in the decision?
  • Do you have criteria for this purchase decision? Who defined them?

When to Disqualify Leads

These three levels are listed in the order you should use them to disqualify.

For instance, if your prospect is a complete departure from your company’s buyer persona, it’s safe to disqualify them right then and there on an organizational level. Maybe one day, you’ll serve their type of buyer, but right now you don’t — so don’t waste time trying to shoehorn your offering into their business.

Similarly, you could be speaking with the CEO of an organization with complete budget authority who passes stakeholder-level qualification with flying colors. But if there’s no problem, there’s no need for your solution. Qualify for business pain first.

Also keep in mind that unless a prospect can be qualified on all three levels, you shouldn’t advance them in the sales process. For example, if you ask your prospect about the company’s strategic goals and they’re unable to answer, it’s a good sign they’re not close enough to the decision process and lack influence.

You should disqualify this contact at the stakeholder level, even though they pass at the opportunity level.

Why Disqualifying Isn’t a Bad Thing

Many salespeople are loath to disqualify prospects and shrink their pipelines.

Their natural instinct is trying to work as many leads as possible, but this isn’t the best approach. The quality of your leads matter more than the quantity.

As a salesperson, your most precious asset is your time, and it’s far better to spend it on a handful of your best prospects than spreading yourself thin across dozens of leads. Trying to close every deal that comes along is only going to result in dead ends with poor fit prospects, while you neglect prospects likely to buy.

What is a qualifying question?

A qualifying question helps the salesperson determine their prospect’s fit for one criteria. That might be need, budget, authority, sense of urgency, or another factor.

A good qualifying question is typically open-ended. Asking a close-ended question, like “Is this a priority right now?” boxes the buyer into an answer. The better version would be “Where does this fall on your list of business priorities?” Because you’re not leading the prospect to an answer, the response will usually be more honest and revealing.

What is BANT?

A qualification framework is essentially a rubric that salespeople can use to determine whether a prospect is likely to become a successful customer. Every customer and every sale is different, but all closed-won deals share commonalities. Sales qualification frameworks distill those shared characteristics into general traits reps can look for when qualifying.

The BANT Qualification Framework

The Old Faithful of sales qualification frameworks, BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) is used at a variety of companies and in a variety of markets.

Originally developed by IBM, BANT covers all the broad strokes of opportunity and stakeholder-level qualification.

BANT seeks to uncover the following four pieces of information:

  • Budget: Is the prospect capable of buying?
  • Authority: Does your contact have adequate authority to sign off on a purchase?
  • Need: Does the prospect have a business pain you can solve?
  • Timeline: When is the prospect planning to buy?

Here are a few examples of BANT questions in the context of a prospect conversation:

Information to uncover questions to ask
Budget
  • Do you have a budget set aside for this purchase? What is it?
  • Is this an important enough priority to allocate funds toward?
  • What other initiatives are you spending money on?
  • Does seasonality affect your funding?
Authority
  • Whose budget does this purchase come out of?
  • Who else will be involved in the purchasing decision?
  • How have you made purchasing decisions for products similar to ours in the past?
  • What objections to this purchase do you anticipate encountering? How do you think we can best handle them?
Need
  • What challenges are you struggling with?
  • What’s the source of that pain, and why do you feel it’s worth spending time on?
  • Why hasn’t it been addressed before?
  • What do you think could solve this problem? Why?
Timeline
  • How quickly do you need to solve your problem?
  • What else is a priority for you?
  • Are you evaluating any other similar products or services?
  • Do you have the capacity to implement this product right now?

While BANT addresses many opportunity-level requirements, it misses the mark on others.

According to research from CEB, it now takes an average of 5.4 people to make a buying decision, so the “ultimate” buying authority could be more than one person. Make sure you engage all relevant stakeholders early on in the process and secure each individual’s buy-in.

“Timeline” is another area where BANT falls short today. A strict BANT qualification might tell you to cycle a lead who won’t be ready to buy until next year into a closed-lost queue.

But you might be acting prematurely — send over educational resources and offer to help until they’re ready to buy, if you can.

Lead Qualification Frameworks

BANT might be the most popular, but it’s far from the only sales qualification framework out there. Here are five alternate frameworks that sales reps can use if BANT just doesn’t cut it.

MEDDIC

MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, Champion) was pioneered by Jack Napoli when he was at technology company PTC. MEDDIC requires sales reps to understand every aspect of a target company’s purchase process, down to whether you have an internal champion — an employee at a prospective company who will internally sell your product.

MEDDIC was incredibly valuable for increasing forecasting accuracy, something that’s crucial for companies that sell to enterprise companies — after all, losing just one deal can be crippling when each is worth several million dollars.

“From $0 to $100 million, [PTC was] successful because we sold a better widget,” HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan said. “From $100 million to $1 billion, we sold a shift in technology. MEDDIC became important because it’s not just any old purchase — it’s a transformation of the business.”

You should consider using MEDDIC as a qualification framework if your company sells a product that requires a transformation in behavior or average sales price is incredibly high, as understanding exactly how a prospect buys, why they would buy, and who’s championing you internally is crucial to maintaining an accurate pipeline.

CHAMP Sales

CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, and Prioritization) is similar to ANUM but places Challenges ahead of Authority.

“Your prospect buys things because they have a challenge,” Atiim, Inc. founder Zorian Rotenberg writes in a blog post. “[Challenges] are the first fundamental part of sales qualification.”

CHAMP also defines authority as a “call-to-action,” not a roadblock. If your initial contact is a low-level employee, you can safely assume they won’t be the decision maker. That doesn’t mean you should hang up the phone. Instead, “ask your prospect questions that help you map out their company’s organizational structure” to determine who to reach out to next, according to Rotenberg.

GPCTBA/C&I

Yes, it’s a long acronym, but a useful one. Developed at HubSpot the qualification framework, GPCTBA/C&I (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority/Negative Consequences and Positive Implications) is a response to changes in buyer behavior. Buyers come to the sales process increasingly informed, so salespeople need to add value on top of product knowledge to be worth speaking with.

But value isn’t something sales reps can just “add” — to truly act as an advisor, you must explore beyond the scope of the discrete problem that your product or service could solve. This means understanding a prospect’s strategic goals, their company’s business model, and how the specific issue you’re discussing fits into the larger picture of their professional life.

Here are some of the questions you should ask at each step:

Goals

The purpose of the following questions is to find out your prospect’s quantitative goals. You can help clarify or set goals with your prospect if their response isn’t well-defined.

  • What is your top priority this year?
  • Do you have specific company goals?
  • Do you have published revenue goals for this quarter/year?

Plans

Once you understand your prospect’s goals, find out what work they’ve already done to achieve them. Determine what’s worked and what hasn’t, and make suggestions for improvement.

  • What are you planning to do to achieve your goals?
  • What did you do last year? What worked and what didn’t? What are you going to do differently this year?
  • Do you think XYZ might make it hard to implement your plan?
  • Do you have the right resources available to implement this plan?

Challenges

Defining your prospect’s challenges — and reinforcing that what they’ve already tried isn’t working — is crucial. Unless they understand that they need help, a prospect won’t become a customer.

  • Why do you think you’ll be able to eliminate this challenge now, even though you’ve tried in the past and you’re still dealing with it?
  • Do you think you have the internal expertise to deal with these challenges?
  • If you realize early enough in the year that this plan isn’t fixing this challenge, how will you shift gears?

Timeline

Your most important asset is your time. So while a prospect that doesn’t want to buy now or in the near future isn’t necessarily a lost cause, they should move down your priority list.

  • When will you begin implementing this plan?
  • Do you have bandwidth and resources to implement this plan now?
  • Would you like help thinking through the steps involved in executing this plan, so you can figure out when you should implement each piece?

Budget

Just asking “What’s your budget?”, isn’t a question likely to get you valuable insight, according to HubSpot sales director Dan Tyre.

Instead, try asking:

  • Are we in agreement on the potential ROI of
    ?
  • Are you spending money on another product to solve the problem we’ve discussed?

Then, go in for the kill. Databox CEO and former HubSpot VP of sales Pete Caputa suggests phrasing the budget question this way:

“We’ve established that your goal is X and that you’re spending Y now to try and achieve X. But it’s not working. In order to hire us, you will need to invest Z. Since Z is pretty similar to Y and you’re more confident that our solution will get you to your goal, do you believe it makes sense to invest Z to hire us?”

Authority

Unlike in BANT, qualifying for authority under this framework isn’t necessarily trying to determine whether your contact is a decision maker. Your contact might be an influencer or a coach, two types of internal champions who can give you insight into the decision maker’s thought process.

If your contact isn’t the economic buyer, ask them:

  • Are the goals we’ve discussed important to the economic buyer?
  • Amongst their priorities, where does this fall?
  • What concerns do you anticipate they’ll raise?
  • How should we go about getting the economic buyer on board?

Negative Consequences and Positive Implications

In this part of the qualification process, you’re finding out what happens if your prospect does or does not achieve their goals.

“If your product can significantly help them avoid consequences and further aid in achieving even bigger follow-up goals, you’ve got a very strong value proposition,” Caputa says.

Here are some C&I questions to ask prospects:

  • What happens if you do or don’t reach your goals? Does the outcome affect you on a personal level?
  • When you overcome this challenge, what will you do next?
  • Do you stand to get promoted or get more resources if you can hit your goal? Would you lose responsibility or be demoted if you don’t?

The benefit of GPCTBA/C&I is that is allows salespeople to gather a huge amount of information. If your product is complex, highly differentiated, and stands to become an integral part of your prospect’s business strategy, having these insights is incredibly valuable. Sales reps selling these kinds of products need to step into their prospects’ world to be effective advisors and business partners.

However, GPCTBA/C&I might not be right for every sales force. Depending on what you sell, such thorough qualification may not be necessary.

ANUM

ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money) is an alternative spin on BANT. When qualifying using ANUM, a sales rep’s first priority should be to determine whether they’re speaking with a decision maker.

Need functions the same way as it does in BANT, but has been moved up in priority. Urgency correlates with Timing, while Money replaces Budget, but with subtle distinctions. David Garcia explains:

“With Urgency, we want to know how high up [the prospect’s] priority list this particular business pain is. Budget has been updated to Money to reflect the fact that we have to only find out if they potentially have the money to purchase our solution. Then it is our job to prove our value and why [the prospect] should apply to get the fixed budget for this purchase.”

FAINT

The RAIN Group advocates using FAINT (Funds, Authority, Interest, Need, Timing) to qualify sales leads. FAINT is designed to reflect the fact that many purchase decisions are unplanned and thus won’t be associated with a set budget.

Like ANUM, reps using FAINT should look for organizations with the capacity to buy, regardless of whether a discrete budget has been set aside. FAINT also adds Interest into the mix. According to RAIN Group’s John Doerr and Mike Schultz, Interest is defined as “[generating] interest from the buyer in learning what’s possible and how to achieve a new and better reality than the one they have today.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”

This phrase is the root of countless arguments, but it’s as good as gold when it comes to sales qualification. Your prospect will provide you as much information via their tone of voice and delivery as the words they actually speak.

Here are some tip-offs (both good and bad) to listen for when qualifying a prospect that can help you determine whether to advance the sales process or disqualify ASAP.

Good Signs to Move a Prospect Forward

Excuses

Wait. How can excuses be a good thing?

According to Psychology Today, we make excuses to resolve cognitive dissonance — mental stress caused by holding conflicting beliefs. Excuses help resolve our actions with who we want to be.

During a sales conversation, your ears should perk up if your prospect tries to explain away previous inaction regarding business pain. This indicates one of two things: either the excuse is legitimate, or your prospect wishes they had done something about it earlier and is trying to rationalize why they didn’t. Either way, it confirms their pain is real.

Specificity

Prospects who can give specific answers to questions such as “What are your goals?” and “When do you need to see results?” have thought carefully about their problem. Listen for sequential plans, thought-out explanations, and statistics. Specifics also indicate that your prospect feels real pain. After all, people without real problems don’t spend time thinking about why they exist and how to address them.

Of course, the caveat is that specifics must be accompanied by reality. A prospect who says, “I want to quadruple revenue in the next two weeks,” is using specifics to demonstrate that they don’t have strong business acumen.

Knowledge

Specificity’s partner is knowledge. A knowledge check is your best bet for qualifying at the stakeholder level. True decision makers will have intimate knowledge of company goals, challenges, and needs. A contact who doesn’t have access to this information likely isn’t going to be valuable in the sales process.

Red Flags in the Sales Process

Inconsistency

A prospect whose answers contradict each other is likely one who wants to be helpful, but can’t because they don’t possess adequate knowledge. However, this isn’t a dealbreaker — prod them to tell you who does know the answers, and continue qualifying the opportunity with another contact.

Short answers

True business pain permeates an organization — executives lose sleep over it and employees have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. If you give the impression that you can help alleviate the pain, prospects will want to talk to you.

A prospect who’s giving you one-word answers isn’t someone who feels there’s basis for a conversation. It could be that the problem is a non-issue, or the contact isn’t clued in enough to feel its severity. Depending on what you think is going on, disqualify or try reaching out to another member of the organization.

Over to You

Sales success rests on effective qualification. Your ability to find good fit prospects will make or break your business. Prospects who turn into happy customers mean not only revenue, but increased word-of-mouth, referrals, and the possibility of cross- or upselling. So it’s imperative that you get it right.

Want to learn more? Check out the weaknesses that cripple a rep’s ability to qualify here. 

Sales

8 Questions That Separate Prospects From Suspects

Well-managed pipelines are a salesperson’s North Star, their bread and butter. Poorly-managed pipelines are an entirely different story, as they may affect deal closure and make it challenging to create accurate sales forecasts.

Sales trainer Mark Hunter thinks he knows why — poor prospecting. “We wind up with prospects in our pipeline that aren’t prospects,” Hunter said. “They’re merely suspects. They’re not going anywhere.”

When a pipeline is filled with leads that are not ready to buy or will never convert into customers, it’s near impossible for reps to focus their time on the right leads, Hunter says.

In a training session titled, “High-Profit Selling: Five Critical Qualification Levels,” Hunter outlines the importance of separating prospects from suspects during sales conversations, as the latter haven’t been nurtured enough to participate in the sales process.

This piece will outline the difference between suspects and prospects and give salespeople eight questions to ask themselves and customers during sales conversations to help qualify leads.

A sales prospect may be someone who works for a decision-maker who is browsing the market for their boss. A prospect may be a decision-maker or someone who can influence others and make a final purchasing decision.

You can think of it like this: a suspect may call you first, but you’ve had no history of contact with them. They may be interested in what you have to offer and ask questions, but they don’t give information about their needs or explain why they’d purchase your product or service. They provide no buying timelines and don’t divulge information that would help you guide them down the right path.

A prospect can be someone you already have a record of contact with, and you already know their pain points. During your conversations, they’ll give proprietary information that gives insight into their situation and why they’re considering your service. They may provide potential timelines and financial information.

Key Differences Between Suspects and Prospects

Let’s summarize the key differences between suspects and prospects and who they may be in relation to your business.

Suspect Prospect
Match the traits of someone that might buy what you have. Match the ideal customer profile.
Don’t give proprietary information during conversations or any information that you couldn’t find on your own. Willing to share personal information and details of their situation.
Only engage with you when it’s safe; maybe they’ll only reach out once or twice. Engage with you and your business consistently to learn more about what you have to offer.
An everyday employee or businessperson that doesn’t necessarily have the power to make final decisions. A decision maker or someone who is part of a purchasing team.

 

>8 Questions That Separate Prospects From Suspects

Given the importance of differentiating between suspects and qualified leads, we’ve compiled a list of guiding questions for salespeople to refer to during conversations with potential clients.

1. Have they tried to address their pain points before?

Understanding how a client has come to be in conversation with you can give valuable insight into their position as a lead.

When asked this question, a suspect might say no. They may have issues, but this is the first time they’re browsing the market, so they’re not sure what they need.

A prospect has likely tried to find solutions before but hasn’t yet found a satisfactory product or service. They will go more in-depth when explaining the reasons why their previous search was unsuccessful. They’ll give you the information you need to understand more about their situation.

2. Have they shared proprietary information?

A lead that is willing to share private information with you is one that has confidence in your relationship and a real interest in talking substantively about how your product or service would fit into their business. This person is likely a prospect.

“I listen for my prospects sharing confidential, proprietary information early on in the sales call,” Hunter says. “The sooner they share it with me, the sooner I know they’re beginning to reach a level of confidence with me.”

3. Do they have a current solution in place?

It’s helpful to know whether or not your lead has a solution in place because it gives valuable insight into what they’ve tried before, and how your solution compares to their other options.

Both suspects and prospects may already have a solution in place, but a suspect would be hesitant to give further information about what they’re using. A prospect will answer your question and then detail their reasons for browsing elsewhere, like not getting the results they need from their current service. Having this information makes it easier to urge them down the sales funnel, as you’ll know how to market your product or service to them as a solution to their current pain points.

4. Are they willing to share a critical need?

Like proprietary information, sharing a critical business need signals that a lead is ready to talk seriously. These people are prospects, as they’ll tell you exactly where they’re struggling and will likely want your help.

If a lead is reluctant to divulge pain, it means they’re not yet confident you’ll be able to provide value to them; they should then be qualified as a suspect. Don’t make leads feel you’re pushing them too close too soon, Hunter said. Instead, be willing to make the prospecting phase as long as necessary. Keep in mind that gathering information upfront will make for a faster close.

5. Do you know the prospect’s timeline for making a decision?

Hunter says that the single most significant factor responsible for inaccurate pipelines is time. Salespeople should prioritize leads looking to buy sooner rather than later, and these people are prospects.

You can’t make projections for the quarter without a sense of how soon a lead will be ready to buy, and spending time working on a lead that won’t close for another two years can be a waste of time.“The most critical asset you have as a salesperson is your time,” Hunter says. “Don’t think for a moment that your most valuable asset is your price.”

Ask your prospects for their timelines early on, and pass them to marketing for further nurturing if they’re not yet ready to make a decision.

6. What will their day-to-day look like if they don’t buy from you?

This question makes it very easy to tell who you’re speaking with. Suppose a lead says that their day-to-day tasks will be challenging or that it will be hard to reach daily or weekly objectives. This person is a prospect because they’re letting you know they’re serious about needing a solution, timelines are tight, and they’ve given proprietary information.

Conversely, a suspect might say that nothing will change and they’re just calling out of curiosity.

7. Do you know the prospect’s conception of value vs money?

This is a tricky piece of information to discover because you can’t just ask a prospect this question — they probably won’t know how to answer. Instead, Hunter uses this “million-dollar question” to get his answer: “How have you made purchasing decisions like this in the past?”

Some leads will tell you the quality of the solution was the most critical factor in past decisions. Others will point to a timeline, and some will discuss price. But once you understand how your leads think about their problems, you’ll have better insight into how to structure a proposal and increase your chance of closing the sale.

It’s important not to wait too long to ask this question: “If you ask this during the negotiation phase, it’s going to be about price,” Hunter said. “But if you ask this in the prospecting phase, [a prospect] will tell you the truth.”

8. Are you dealing with the decision maker?

This is one of the most fundamental parts of qualifying a lead. Selling to someone who’s not the decision-maker is like interviewing for a job with somebody in an entirely different department. If your contact keeps referring to other people when talking about their company’s past decisions, there’s a good chance they don’t have the final say when it comes to making a purchase. This lead is likely a suspect.

Hunter warned against bringing up costs when you aren’t dealing with a decision-maker. You need to get in front of the person who will be assessing their needs against your solution and price. And you can’t structure a good deal for a person who doesn’t have the power to determine what’s a fair price for the value and what’s not.

Get the information you need to qualify your leads.

If your leads don’t give significant information in response to any of the above questions, they’re likely prospects who are not yet ready to be speaking to a salesperson. While they may have needs, they’re not prepared to address those needs or aren’t experiencing business difficulties because of those needs.

When you spend time talking to customers and asking questions that give a well-rounded view of who they are, it becomes easier to identify qualified leads ready to do business with you and pass others off for further nurturing.

Sales

SQL vs. MQL: What They Are and How They…

During high school, I never did well during my physical education class.

One of the main reasons? The track and field unit.

Every year during this unit, we’d have to do a high jump, hurdles, and baton racing. Needless to say, none of these activities were my forte.

However, baton racing has continued to be an apt metaphor in my career.

For example, most organizations have a process of passing a lead from the marketing team to the sales team. Typically, this is when a lead goes from being a marketing qualified lead (MQL) to a sales qualified lead (SQL).

Passing a lead from marketing to sales is kind of like baton racing, just without the physical activity (phew!).

Below, let’s learn more about SQLs and MQLs — what they are, what the differences are, and why they matter.

Here is the common path leads take in the Inbound Sales Methodology:

Now let’s discuss how SQLs and MQLs differ, and how they relate to one another within the sales process. 

So, how do you move a lead from an MQL to an SQL? Consider the following factors.

Lead Score

The process of moving a potential buyer from an MQL to an SQL can vary depending on the company, but often begins with a process called lead scoring.

According to Lindsay Kolowich, a HubSpot Academy content creator, lead scoring is the process of assigning values, often in the form of numerical “points,” to each lead you generate for the business.

You can score your leads based on multiple attributes, including the professional information they’ve submitted to you and how they’ve engaged with your website and brand across the internet. This process helps sales and marketing teams prioritize leads, respond to them appropriately, and increase the rate at which those leads become customers.

Lead scoring is a way to save salespeople time so they spend more time talking to leads that actually want to talk to them and are interested in your product or service.

Lead Behavior

Sales and marketing teams work together to determine which actions qualify a prospect as ready to move on to the sales process. You’ll determine what the ideal lead looks like and decide how much weight a particular action carries.

For example, these actions could be booking a meeting, taking part in a demo, or responding to an email. Then, you could assign higher point values to booking a meeting rather than responding to an email.

Without a defined set of actions, your marketing team might pitch leads that aren’t ready to move on to the sales process. Overall, this will slow down your sales team.

So, what type of behavior can move a prospect along? It could come in the form of engagement on your site. Let’s say a lead is engaging on your website, opening your emails, or downloading your lead magnets. That means that they’re interested in what you have to say. Depending on how much they engage with you and the type of engagement, they might be ready to move from MQL to SQL.

You could also include negative actions. For instance, if a lead has stopped engaging with you or stopped opening your emails, that could bring their lead score down.

Likelihood to Buy

Typically, for a lead to become an SQL, they have to have a need for your product or service, have the budget to purchase your product and infrastructure to use it, and your product or service solves their pain points.

This is the idea of the BANT system (Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timeline). While you shouldn’t use this system to ask a series of rote questions, it can give you an idea that you’re selling to a good fit customer. For example, you’ll still want to map out who’s involved, identify your prospect’s problems, and discover how quickly their organization moves.

Incorporating Leads Into Your Sales Process

Once your sales team gets a lead from the marketing team, it’s time to work on your sales process so that you can close as many deals as possible.

When talking to SQLs, salespeople should prepare just like always, but use the information gathered during the nurturing MQL phase to help close the deal. For example, you should know what a prospect has downloaded, and the path they took to become an SQL.

Then, it’s time to talk with them and learn their story so you’re aware of how your product can service them.

Why do SQLs Matter?

Understanding MQLs and SQLs is important for your sales team because the system can save your salespeople time so they spend more of their time selling to the right people at the right time.

At its best, the process of lead scoring and converting MQLs to SQLs gives your sales team more qualified prospects so they’ll have more meaningful conversations.

Additionally, tracking MQLs and SQLs gives your sales and marketing team insight into what’s working — what brings leads in and how likely are they to convert? Plus, how often is your sales team closing SQLs? Is your sales team having more meaningful conversations?

The MQL and SQL systems can help you determine how ready a lead is for a conversation. If your company isn’t using this system, you can use it to maximize your sales conversations, so you can make more sales.

Want to learn how to qualify customers? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Sales Qualification.

Sales

What a Client Intake Form Is & What It…

Not everything is meant to be.

Sometimes, you might find yourself pursuing something that doesn’t materialize — no matter how badly you want it to or how hard you try.

Not every minor league baseball player makes it to the MLB. Plenty of scientists dedicate a significant portion of their careers studying a potential chemical reaction — only to find it’s not actually possible.

And in some cases, Natalie from your English class might say “no” when you ask her to homecoming even though you bought her flowers and got her chocolates and painted her car windows with that window paint that’s way more expensive than you thought it would be and asked her in front of a bunch of people and played that song “Lips of an Angel” by Hinder on a boombox while you did it.

No, not everything is meant to be. It’s a universal phenomenon — one that businesses aren’t exempt from. Sometimes the clients and deals you pursue won’t pan out. But what if you could get ahead of that? What if there were a way to vet your potential clients to help you know which ones aren’t worth your time?

Well, something called a client intake form can serve that purpose. Here, we’ll learn more about what that kind of document is, see what should be on the one you create, and get a template for one your business can use.

Client intake forms are used by a variety of organizations and individual contractors — spanning several industries and practices. Doctors, law firms, accountants, and virtually any other kind of company or businessperson that deals with clients can leverage these kinds of documents.

For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on client intake forms for B2B agencies that aid primarily with sales, marketing, or service challenges. And as anyone who works in those sectors can tell you, not every prospect you engage with is a viable business opportunity.

Some are much more feasible than others, but discerning between a prospect with whom you can have a productive relationship and one who might leave you hanging is easier said than done.

You can waste a lot of energy conducting research, phone screens, and email outreach trying to chase down potential clients who ultimately lack the interest in or need for your services.

That’s where client intake forms come in. These documents can weed out any potential clients who might not be a good fit, straight off the bat — saving you considerable time, effort, and resources.

1. Fundamental Contact and Company Information

You can’t have a client intake form without covering the basics. Contact and company information is key for keeping records and being able to reliably reference these documents down the line.

This section should cover a company’s name, the primary contact at that company, their preferred contact methods, their role, their company’s size, and other logistical fundamentals that give you a high-level overview of what the organization in question looks like.

2. A Description of What the Client Makes or Does

Once you’ve covered the basics, you can start to get into the meat of the intake form. With this, you let your client describe their brand and its main products or services. This information can offer you a lot of telling insight that can help you understand whether a client is right for your agency.

Let them tell you what they do — hear it from their perspective. How they describe their product or service can give you a better picture of how they view their company identity and a clearer understanding of how you should approach your relationship with them.

It can also help to have them describe their company values in this section. Again, having them do so will show you how they conceive of their business and can reveal more about what kind of client they might be.

3. The Challenges the Client Currently Faces

Here’s where you really start to place how your agency can best serve this client. Give them the space to describe what they feel to be the primary issues and concerns facing their organization.

What might be holding them back? Where are their weaknesses? Are your agency’s services relevant to those issues? If so, are you well-equipped and suited to help them with those challenges?

Let them tell you what they’re looking for. It might also help to have them explicitly describe how they feel your agency can help them move forward. Letting them articulate what they think your agency can do for them will tell you a lot about their expectations and what kind of client they’ll be.

4. The Client’s Goals

Like the point above, this section will tell you a lot about the place your agency can have in your potential client’s future and operations. Your client’s goals provide the most definitive picture of the hopes and expectations they’ll bring to your professional relationship.

They can show you how viable a working partnership between your agency and their organization is. If they describe lofty, way-too-out-there ambitions that you won’t be able to deliver on in this section, you’ll know you have to have a frank conversation about what your agency can realistically do for them.

5. Budget Information

This might be the most important point to consider on this list. It underscores almost every other section addressed here. If a company’s budget isn’t sufficient, then you won’t be able to do much for their challenges, goals, and vision.

It might go without saying, but clients need to be able to afford your services. If the budget they provide in this section isn’t where it needs to be, you’ll have to have a conversation to see if they’re willing to bump that figure up.

If their budget meets your standards, this section gives you a reference point for the resources you’ll be able to allocate to assist the client. It also helps you set some boundaries to frame the strategy you’ll employ to help the organization in question.

6. Competitors

This section often serves as a starting point for shaping the way you serve this client. It gives you some valuable reference points for understanding how the company in question operates. With this information, you know where to look to see how companies in the potential client’s space function.

You can see the strategies their competitors are employing and determine whether your agency can leverage those tactics. If you check out a potential client’s competitors and see that their operations are totally foreign to your services, you might decide that their company isn’t a good fit for you.

7. Room for Any Information or Questions That Might Not Have Been Covered

What else do your potential clients need you to know? Do they have any relevant information that you didn’t ask for? And beyond that, is there anything else they’d like to know from you? This point can start those conversations — it’s general enough to fill in any cracks that the previous sections might have left.

Client Intake Form Template

Here’s a client intake form template from HubSpot that your business can use to screen new clients.

Download the Template Here

As I said, not everything is meant to be, and it’s easy to waste a lot of time chasing down an opportunity that might blow up in your face. But with a well-crafted client intake form, you can get ahead of those potential duds and keep your agency running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

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