Sales cycles for enterprise products and services are long enough, do not retard the pace of these complex sales processes by neglecting the importance and necessity of prospect qualification. Be sure to include prospect qualification within every step of your sales process to ensure that you do not waste precious time.
A client of mine met six times with a prospect over a four month period only to determine, at the conclusion of the sixth meeting, that the prospect was nowhere near a purchase decision. In fact, we could not help but conclude that four months into an intense search for a solution, this prospect was still unsure about what he actually needed to do to achieve his objective. A total of four staff members had been included in the sales campaign to win this prospect’s business, three of whom were industry professionals who could have each played a productive role in another, more promising opportunity. What could my client have done to avoid the time and money wasted on this opportunity?
A thorough review of each sales meeting revealed that very little concrete information had been gathered about the prospect prior to the involvement of an industry professional within the sales development process. We also found that the meetings with industry professionals focused on presenting a solution including detailed reviews of product features. No time had been spent on answering critically important (and rather mundane and concrete) questions about the prospect like:
- Are they committed to finding a solution for their requirement?
- What is their requirement?
- What is their desired solution?
- Who will determine that the solution has been found?
- Who will approve the purchase?
- What are their expectations for this solution within their enterprise?
- Do we have a solution for them?
When we looked further into staff roles within each of the meetings it became obvious that the importance of exchanging technical information had significantly outweighed the importance of collecting sales details for the opportunity, principally as the result of the fact that management of the opportunity had been assigned to an industry professional with little understanding of sales and little sales interest.
We remediate this problem by taking two steps: 1) requiring that answers to our list of qualifying questions be fully documented and vetted prior to approving prospect meetings with any member(s) of my client’s team of industry professionals and 2) assigning a customer relationship manager to each sales effort with demonstrable experience in sales as the engagement leader. Needless to say, prospect development and sales improved significantly as the result of a successful implementation of these two steps. My client now understands, clearly, why technology cannot, unilaterally drive sales; rather, my client firmly believes that a thorough understanding of each and every prospect must permeate each phase of the sales development process to ensure success.
© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved