How to qualify a sales opportunity

In sales, there is a common belief that if you work very, very hard, the results will come. The busier you get, and the more follow-ups you do, the more likely you are to close your opportunities. Hard work gets results, but there is also a much more productive belief: smart work gets results. Opportunity qualification is crucial for an efficient sales process. It involves taking the time to evaluate and analyze potential customers to determine if they are a good fit for your products or services. It allows sales teams to prioritize their efforts, save time and resources, and increase their chances of closing deals. A single flaw in the qualification process can have a serious impact on the organization’s sales forecast, in addition to wasting time, energy and available resources. Qualification is key.

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Knowing the customer is one of the key elements in qualifying a sales opportunity

Make sure you understand the customer’s current situation. Beware of assumptions. We don’t always see things as they are, so it’s best to go and validate.
  • Who is your customer? Does he correspond to customer person identified by your company? What role does the person you are currently talking to play?

  • What is their buying process? Will they buy directly or do they have to go through their purchasing department?

  • Is the person able to understand the language you’ll be using? That is, are they familiar with your jargon? Do they have experience in purchasing products and services similar to yours? Do they need to be educated?

  • What is the structure of the customer’s business? What is their revenue level? Their values?

Qualifying opportunities with the BANT approach

The BANT approach is a commonly used framework for qualifying sales opportunities. BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline. This approach consists of evaluating a prospect according to these four criteria to determine if they a good fit for your products or services. We also use this approach at CentrixOne, and if you are a potential client, we will ask you these questions to understand where you stand.
  • 1.

  • To properly qualify your opportunity, you need to know the customer's budget situation in relation to the product or service you are selling.

    • Does the customer have an idea of the budget they are willing or able to allocate to your type of product or not? Has a budget been approved?

    • Does the customer have an idea of what your solution will cost? Have you already submitted a proposal to them?

    • Have they received a quote for a comparable product? Is this product in a higher, lower range?

  • 2.

    Authority - are you talking to the decision maker?
  • It is very important to determine the decision-making authority of the person you are talking to.

    • Do they have influence over decision makers?

    • Are they gathering information to present a solution to a decision maker?

    • Do they have decision-making or approval authority?

    • A-t-elle le pouvoir de décision ou d’approbation?

    • Do they have the ability to buy?

    • More and more, decisions are made in teams. Who are the team members involved in the decision? Does one person have more influence (positive or negative) over the others?

  • 3.

  • Assessing the client's needs will help you understand if there is a fit between what they need and what you offer. Be aware that the customer's actual need may be different from what they think they need; your questions will help you get to the bottom of it.

    • What is the customer's vision?

    • Is what the customer envisions realistic? Yes, it is worth verifying!

    • And is the vision achievable? Is it possible to implement it?

    • Is the customer's need clear or unclear? Lack of clarity leads to doubt and indecision.

    • Is the client's need focused, or are they expressing an endless wish list?
    Keep asking questions to quickly validate whether you are able to serve the customer. Do you have the expertise, production capacity, and quality level required? Do you have references from similar customers to help gain the customer's trust?

  • 4.

  • In order to achieve your goals for a given period and make accurate sales forecasts, you need to know the customer's timelines.

    • When do they want to move forward with their project?

    • Is their timeline realistic? Is it a rushed decision, or far out in the future?

    • Is the deadline flexible, fictitious, or a real deadline? Is there a risk that the deadline will be constantly extended?

    • Are you able to educate the customer on the pre- and post-sales steps?

    • Do you have follow-up mechanisms in place if the customer pushes you back 3-6 months? If the customer's time frame is far off, you may have to start the process over when they are ready (if nothing disrupts their needs in the meantime) - reduce your immediate efforts and make sure you follow up at the right time.

    • Why is it important for the client to make their decision by a certain date?

    • Is there a compelling event that makes them need your product? For example, a company merger, an industry standard going into effect, GDPR, or a sales rep being hired.
    If your customer's decision date is flexible, or if they don't really have an urgency to act, your sales cycle becomes uncertain.

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The importance of qualifying well

Your ability to generate revenue depends on your ability to exchange information with the customer. As the conversation progresses, you provide them with the information they need to make a decision, and they reveal the information you need to move the sales cycle forward. If you don’t take the time to create a connection and ask questions to qualify the opportunity, you risk making false predictions and missing your revenue goals. You also risk focusing your efforts on customers you will never win, such as a customer whose needs don’t match your offering.
Better qualification allows you to be a more credible leader with your customers, and also positively impact your company’s efforts. The key is to give information and ask questions. This is done through a dialogue that builds connection and trust.

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