How to qualify opportunities with online meetings

Several years ago then I worked as a Sales Manager at Omada I learned the value of using online meetings to qualify my opportunities and I experienced how it helped me to increase my sales productivity with 5x.

The below tips are relevant for everybody working with complex B2B sales, where you have an extended interaction with your potential customers and where you need to help and guide them through the purchasing process. I still use the tips below today as CEO for SalesValue.

There will always be pressure on sales

There is always a big pressure on sales people to perform and deliver results.

According to a Gartner Group 2018 study, 58% of CEO’s rank growth as their top priority. Of course growth depends on a great collaboration between sales, marketing and product management. They all needs to work in great harmony.

But when dealing with complex B2B sales, the management will be looking to the sales organization to deliver on the growth promise. Sales is the function that can deliver quick results, where as R&D and product management is the long term solution that ensures customer satisfaction.

This means, that in 2018 there will be a big pressure on many sales organisations to deliver great results - as always.

Do less, then obsess

I recently read the book Great at Work by Morten T. Hansen. One of key insights Morten found through a five-year study of more than 5,000 managers and employees, was that exceptional people “Do less - then obsess”.

According the Mortens study the great performers do not try to work harder and longer hours to perform better. They do the right things that deliver value, but then obsess over them to do them exceptionally well.

You can apply the same logic to your sales efforts. Identify the opportunities with great potential and then focus all your time on these opportunities to ensure great results for you and your customer. This means that you should quickly qualify any opportunities to identify if there is a great match between the customers’ pains and your solution.

If there is no great match then I recommend that you explain why and help the customer find better alternatives to your solution. This will also build your credibility as a Value Creator and trusted advisor to the customer. The customer will have much greater faith in you and your company next time if you are ready to tell them when there is not a great match between their needs and your solution.

If there is a match and you evaluate that your can win the opportunity, then put the opportunity on the list that requires high focus and significant time, so you can ensure success and bring value to your customer.

I learned the need for qualifying new opportunities quickly when I worked as sales manager at Omada. We were in the fortunate position that we had just made a great partnership with Microsoft and were getting a lot of leads from all across Europe. Omada was still a small company in those days, and we did not have a chance to visit all the leads coming in. I had to find a way for my sales team to quickly qualify new leads and ensure that we focused on the right opportunities.

Online meetings are the perfect way to qualify

I quickly found that online meetings were the perfect way to qualify our opportunities.

We could have a rich dialog, that we could not otherwise have over a phone call. We found that when we invited for an online meeting the customer would also schedule more time than they typically did for a phone call. This allowed is more time to discuss and understand the customer situation and pain, which helped us qualify the opportunity.

Through an online meeting we could also give a short introduction to our company and our solution, and get the customer’s feedback on the match to their requirements. We could answer questions like these:

  • Which parts of our offerings is most important for them?
  • What is the key pain they are trying to solve?
  • Who is involved in the purchasing process?
  • Which other solutions have they been looking at?
  • What is the time horizon for the purchase?
  • etc.

This allows you to show up to the physical meeting much better prepared and have a much more valuable dialog with the customer, that will put you miles ahead of the competitors that do not do this.

The right agenda and content matters

At SalesValue we focus on enabling your sales team, by helping them find the right content at the right time. And the agenda and content that you present in the first online meeting is important.

I use the following simple agenda:

  • Introduction from customer - 5-10 min.
    • Company
    • Pains and needs
  • Introduction from me - 5-10 min.
    • Solution overview
  • Next steps - 5-10 min.
    • Plans for evaluation and purchase
    • Expectations for next meeting

Typically I only include the first level agenda items in the invitation.

The presentation is also important. I don’t recommend you use the same presentation, you would use for a normal physical meeting. It has to shorter and more focused on qualifying the match between pain and solution. I use the following structure for my presentations:

  • Slide 1
    • Qualification questions about the customer
    • I first ask the customer to tell me about their business and needs, and only use the slide if there are specific things I did not get answers to or forgot. But it can also be a great slide for less experienced sales people. Finally it can build trust with the customer, as it shows that you understand the most important questions.
  • Slide 2
    • The company WOW slide
    • One slide that summaries the company WHY, value proposition, key references, etc.
  • Slide 3
    • Solution overview
    • One slide that summaries the solution. It does not include a lot of details but allows me to speak about the solution and ask questions about the customers key areas of interested in relation to the solution. I also use the slide to relate back to the introduction given by the customer and the identified pains.
  • Slide 4
    • Next steps
    • One slide that summaries the expected next steps based our prior experience with similar customers. This is a great trust builder as well.
    • The slide can also include key questions like time frame, involved people and expectations to agenda

Call it a preparation meeting

For many sales people it goes against the conventional wisdom, which is that your first meeting with a new potential customer should be a physical meeting. The wisdom is that, in the physical meeting you have a chance to make a good first impression and to get to know each other.

My solution has been to call the first qualification meeting a “Preparation meeting for the physical meeting”. This way the expectation is that there should still be a physical meeting where we can meet face to face.

It has to work like a charm

It also has to be very easy for the customer and the salesperson to initiate the meeting. No long and complex installation and fighting with firewalls, headset microphone, etc.

Back in 2005-2008 when I worked at Omada, it could be hard to find good solutions, and it could sometimes be a burden for the customer. And for many years it actually did not become easier, because of the complexity of browsers, operating systems and devices.

But with CrankWheel, I have found the perfect match. It is extremely easy for the customers to connect to, taking down the technical barrier for first qualification calls.

About the author

Thomas A. Thejn is the CEO and co-founder of SalesValue.

Start qualifying your opportunities with online meetings through CrankWheel and use SalesValue to manage the content for your customer dialog. CrankWheel is directly integrated into SalesValue, so you can initiate your online customer meeting in just 1 click.