Based on my last article “A Fresh Prospecting Approach for You,” many people are wondering what the two most important qualifiers are for any given sale. That’s a good question, and I’ll tell you that over the years I think they have changed. In the past, budget was the big stumbling block and the issue that sales reps really needed to drill down on. Now don’t think that budget isn’t important – it is! – but now with pricing being so transparent on websites and across social media, I don’t think that budget qualifies anymore as one of the “Big Two” qualifiers.
Before I go on, let me remind you that there are six main areas of qualifying that you need cover and know the answers to. They are:
• Why a prospect will buy (their buying motives)
• Why a prospect might NOT buy (potential objections)
• The budget
• Who the decision maker is (or decision makers)
• What their timeline is for making a decision
• And who your competition is for this sale
For all you sales managers out there, if you want greater control over your team, and you want them to get out more qualified leads, then simply put a checklist together for each lead that goes into the pipeline, and make your reps get the answers for the six areas above. I’ve covered in-depth qualifying questions for each of these areas in my book, “The Ultimate Book of Phone Scripts,” so I won’t go over them again here. If you’re a sales rep, remember you still must qualify for ALL SIX of these areas, but I believe now even more emphasis needs to be placed on the “Big Two” below:
• Decision Makers & Competition
The reason these are now so important is because of the Internet. It is now estimated that because of the plethora of information available online (social media sites, websites, blogs, customer reviews, wholesale sites, etc.) that over 60% of a sale is already determined before a prospect even talks to a sales rep. What this means is that the old sales standbys of yesterday “features and benefits” are far less important than they used to be. And that means competition and the decision tree is more important.
So here are some techniques and questions you can use to qualify for these two important areas:
For decision makers start with this basic question:
“And ________, besides yourself, who else weighs in on this kind of a decision?”
Asking this DM question in the assumptive (“who besides yourself”) rather than the closed-ended way of “Are you the decision maker…” often times exposes who else is involved and can even reveal what the decision time-line is like, too.
Once they reveal they have to talk to their regional manager, boss, or partner, you can then begin drilling down on this. Use any of the following layering questions:
“And how are you involved in the decision?”
“And how much input do you have in this?”
“And if you make a recommendation, do they usually go with it?”
“Based on what you know of where they’re leaning right now, do you think this is something they might be interested in?”
“What do you know about their timeline for something like this?”
“What’s your gut telling you about the viability of this going through?”
“What do you think they’d need to see to say yes on something like this?”
The point of layering your questions like this is so you can gather enough information to make your close easier later on. You see, nothing ambushes a closer more than getting to the end of their presentation only to be told that the prospect has to “Show it to someone else.” By qualifying in advance in this way, you’ll get information that you can then leverage at the end of your closing presentation to avoid falling into this trap.
For competition, you can use the following questions:
“And _________, who else have you looked at for this?”
[If they tell you a couple of names, then]
“And what do you think so far?”
“And who do you like best so far?”
“And why is that?”
“Who else are you going to reach out to for this?”
“And what are you hoping to accomplish by that?”
“And why is it important to get several quotes?”
“Who have you already looked at and said no to?”
“And what about them wasn’t a fit for you?”
“Based on what you know of other company’s offerings, what do you like best about us?”
“If you had three very similar proposals on the table, what would be the deciding factor of who you’d go with?”
“What would you need to see from me to stop looking elsewhere?”
Asking these and other qualifying questions to uncover potential competitors will once again prevent you from being blindsided at the end of your presentation. Again, the Internet has changed the buying landscape for most companies and consumers, and it’s crucial to know these (and the other four) areas well before you go into your closing presentation.
And by using these questions, you will!