For many sales professionals, prospecting and qualifying is one of the least favorite aspects of their job. In the rush to dig into a new account and make a new sale, qualifying is often skimmed over and the salesperson often ends up spending time with the wrong people, negatively impacting their effectiveness. In this era of hyper-competition and limited resources, how can sales professionals qualify and select the right prospects with whom to spend their valuable time?
First, salespeople must have the right mindset to find and qualify the prospective customer. I encourage salespeople to use the role model of a doctor. Thinking like a physician, and asking questions to diagnose the customer’s situation, will help the salesperson recognize if the prospect is truly qualified for their product and solution. What makes a doctor’s protocol of questions so valuable in this qualifying process is that the salesperson focuses on two dimensions of the customer – the external and the internal profile. The external profile refers to everything that can be determined by looking at the customer from the outside, e.g. size of company, industry, number of employees, etc. The internal profile refers to what they are actually experiencing.
Similar to a doctor, the salesperson begins their diagnostic conversation with a prospect that, on the surface, looks like an individual that could use their product or service. They continue their diagnosis by asking about the things they can’t see from the outside, the internal profile. It is what we like to call ‘extreme qualifying’ because we are qualifying based on the physical symptoms of the prospect (their reality) rather than only their external characteristics. While the external sets the starting point for extreme qualification, all too often it is the ending point for most sales professionals. It is the internal profile that will provide the most telling information and will differentiate the salesperson in the eyes of the prospect.
In traditional qualifying, we have been trained early on to create interest with prospects, however one of the problems with creating interest in your product or solution is you can easily create interest with someone who is not qualified to buy. It is like a doctor who talks about open-heart surgery with a 22 year old professional athlete. It may be interesting and even intriguing to the athlete, but it is not likely to result in any open-heart surgery being performed. For the sales professional this translates to time invested with prospects that are not qualified to buy.
So what are the “symptoms” you will look for to use this ‘extreme qualifying’ approach? First, focus in on two or three of your most unique and valuable features and ask yourself the question, “What would my prospect be experiencing in the absence of this feature?” “What are the physical signs or symptoms that they would notice in their business?” As you can see, this is not about presenting benefits; it is about verifying that your customer is at risk because of the physical symptoms your prospect is experiencing and the consequences they will experience in the absence of your solution.
Extreme qualifying is qualifying according to the internal profile of the customer, recognizing the reality of symptoms that represent real risk to the customer. When your customer sees these risks as real and substantial enough to take action and invest money to eliminate them, you will be in a unique competitive situation and will enjoy the relationship as a valued business advisor to your customer.