At the start of a new year, sales people are either exhausted from closing the previous year, celebratory or looking for a new role. In sales, when someone fails to hit target, there is rarely enough time for a post-game analysis.
Managers need new staff. There isn’t time to review why one of the team didn’t work out.
And yet, one of the reasons teams and individual salespeople don’t close enough deals is a poor qualification process. Spending too much time chasing deals that aren’t viable can contribute towards missed sales targets.
Why qualifications are crucial
Getting through to decision makers is difficult enough. So the last thing you want is to spend time phoning and meeting with the wrong decision makers. Managers without budgets. Buyers without a need. Potential customers in senior roles who know they won’t need your solution until the next budgets are passed. Take enough of these meetings and you won’t hit target, this or next year.
Outbound lead generation requires a qualification process. Even if it takes 20 calls to get through to a buyer, you can’t be 100% certain they’re a viable lead until you’ve spoken to them.
However, when it comes to inbound leads, the buyer has largely qualified themselves. They know what they want and know a budget exists. One guaranteed way to convert more of these is to act quickly. Responses within 1 hour of an inbound lead are 21 times more likely to convert these leads, providing you check there is an alignment between what a client wants and what you can deliver.
How to improve telesales qualifications
#1: Ask who makes the decisions
Does it ultimately rest with the owner(s), or do they report to a board?
Are you talking to someone with the autonomy to make a purchase for the department they manage?
How will you know the answer to any of these questions unless you ask? If in doubt, ask more than once. It can take up to three times to verify who is the ultimate decision maker and what you need to give them - e.g. a proposal - before they can convince the budget holder to make a decision.
#2: Verify timescales
Assuming a potential buyer sounds interested, it is useful to know roughly when a client wants/needs to go ahead with a purchase. If you don’t know this, how can you predict when a sale will land and how soon a product/service should be delivered.
#3: Does a customer know what they need?
Qualification is a two-way street.
Your role is to verify that a company has a budget and needs a service. A customer needs to be certain that you can deliver the service they need. One way to avoid any miscommunication or a customer acting under a false premise - imaging that your product/service does something that it doesn’t yet - is to show them.
Jump on a live product demo using screen sharing, if the potential customer has time. Show them, don’t just tell them. Make sure they’re shown the features relevant to the pain points/needs they’ve mentioned. This way, you can be confident they’re a viable prospect and have a better understanding of what you are selling.
#4: Timely follow-up
Qualifying a lead happens on and off the phone.
Once you’ve spoke to a potential buyer, follow-up shortly afterwards with the agreed next steps. Review information you can find online about their business. Send them more information. Maybe go and meet them in person. Spend time on a more informed demo. Whatever it takes to make sure they’re interested and want what you are selling.
Then maintain as much follow-up activity as necessary to confirm and close the deal. Getting to that point all starts with a qualification process on a call.