Building out and deploying a proper sales qualification framework is an essential component for both sales and marketing alignment as well as operating an efficient customer acquisition engine.
All leads are not created equally and all sales inquiries are not worthy of sales pursuit. The activity of selling is not near as important as the accomplishment – closed deals at attractive economics. If it costs too much to close a customer or they don’t stick around because of mismatched expectations related to the product or service sold then your sales funnel and customer acquisition efforts are performing below the minimum threshold.
This is also an important element for marketing and sales leaders to agree upon. As covered previously in our post on the Agenda for the Next Meeting Between Your CMO and VP Sales, continually reinforcing and revisiting the definition of a qualified lead is essential.
While there are many differences between businesses and the markets they serve, here is a three part framework for sales qualification that can work in any business:
Assuming you are operating a variety of lead and demand generation campaigns, you will begin to get interest. The question to address here is: are the targets of these campaigns in your target market and do they fit the profile of your optimal customer? Knowing who should be your customer and going after them is a much more prudent approach than just throwing a large net into the market to see who you will catch.
Focus on the attributes and characteristics that set you up for success in the sales cycle. Things to consider at this stage including company size, industry, location, maturity, and organizational structure. Beyond the company, understand the person at the company including traditional demographic data like role, title, etc. as well as behavioral elements like how they work, whether they are interested in innovative approaches to old problems, etc.
Once you have confirmed the Profile of the prospect and it aligns with your business objectives, now it is time to understand if they have the Problem or challenge that your product or service is designed to address. If they do have the Problem, is the pain latent or realized. Knowing something is a problem doesn’t always mean that an organization is ready to take action on it so map this into your plan and thinking. Elevating the problem is a different sales and marketing effort than directly addressing a problem or challenge a company knows it has and is ready to face head on.
Assuming you have #1 and #2 complete, now is the time to understand who has both the will and authority to take the action to solve the problem or challenge with you. In complex enterprise sales, committee based purchasing or cross-functional coordination can consume many cycles so knowing who is a decision-maker vs. an influencer vs. a participant is a key consideration.
Many sales cycles have come to a screeching halt because the person who is assumed to be able to make the decision and sign the purchase order has to seek approval at the final stages from someone who has yet to be in involved in the process. Knowing how decisions are made early in the process helps qualify conversations and creates a clear goal to reach that person or persons during the course of the sales cycle.
Traditional lead qualification models like BANT (budget, need, authority, and timing) remain valid and are great ways to keep discipline in the sales process. Elevating this a bit and thinking about this starting at the top of the sales funnel makes the entire process more efficient leading to more closed deals at a faster rate.