Eliminate the dirt to find the nuggets of gold in your pipeline, says sales coach Tibor Shanto
Qualifying is a big word in sales, every sales person learns about it in basic training, and it is reinforced in every sales meeting, but it may not be all it is cracked up to be. While it may be counter intuitive, as a sales pro you should spend your time and energy on disqualifying prospects instead.
Think back to the old time panhandling prospector of the gold rush, picture how they made their riches, scooping up pan full of stones then discarding the dirt, leaving them with nuggets of gold.
This is exactly what sellers need to do to be effective, imagine if the old panhandlers polished every stone to determine which had potential value and which did not. Instead, they learned what they were looking for, their basic attributes, and if what they were looking at did not fit that mold, they tossed it back. In short order they were able to eliminate things that lacked value.
Sellers can do this too, by systematically learning how their sales unfold, learning why sales they initiated do not close, or go to decision. Doing deal reviews is key, review your wins in order to recognize what specifics events took place with your buyers leading up to the sale, what were the common elements of value buyers identified, and other key factors of deals won; the same process is applied to lost deals. Armed with that knowledge, you are in a position to eliminate the dirt. Why go at it that way, because you are likely to have more dirt in your pipeline than golden nuggets. This is not an insult, but if you have a 4:1 closing ratio, that 75% of your pipeline will self disqualify or fall away. Put another way, it is the dirt between you and revenue.
The wonderful thing about leads and prospects is that are recyclable. Which means when you disqualify a prospect it is not final, think of it as moving it out of the way now, to revisit when the time is right or better, another bit of knowledge gained from deal reviews.
One unexpected downside to clearing your pipeline of “dirt”, is that it usually leaves your pipeline bare, forcing you to go out and find new prospects, an activity many sales people try hard to avoid. Most feel better keeping questionable opportunities in their pipeline, only to hope or pretend that it may close. For most sales people, the volume of their pipeline determines their propensity to prospect, the quality of it; don’t believe me, just look at the accuracy of your forecasts, in terms of what closes, when and at what percentage of the revenue expected.
One other step you can add to the qualification/disqualification process is to quantify the nuggets left after the disqualification. Buyers are hip to the whole qualification thing, and frankly they are better players than many sales people. To change the paradigm and to bring value to you and the buyer, develop the habit of quantifying. Quantify the value they will get by dealing with you, quantify how you will help them achieve their objectives, quantify how not doing acting will impact them. This does take work, but not much more than qualifying, but in the end it delivers more revenue, quicker, more loyal clients, and loads of referrals.