Sales – How Do We Effectively Qualify Clients?
When we prospect for new business, it is important that we offer a solution that offers value to the client, solves their problems and allows them to reach a goal. In sales this is pretty much 101 stuff.
For many people working in sales, questioning the client is really important as this establishes key facts and needs. It is also essential to qualify the client as an effective prospect. The reason we do this is to make sure that there is a good match between client and sales person, and that the client is able to actually do business with us.
This is about realising that maybe not all clients are qualified to work with us, and asking ourselves what does the client we are looking to work with bring to the table. From this can we determine whether they are able to do business with us. This in sales is what we call this qualifying the client. Doing this has another benefit to the sales person too. I often work with sales people who have to report on their prospect lists to their managers and often the managers get frustrated as the comments they get from sales people on the likelihood of clients booking are based in opinion and conjecture rather that solid reasoning. Conversely the sales people often feel at a loss for the right thing to say to keep their manager off of their back.
Qualification starting point
We want to work out whether a client will potentially work with us, possibly work with us or probably work with us. The latter of course leading us to the ideal outcome where the client will definitely work with us!
In order to do this we need to be thinking about what we would look for from the client. I have heard from companies that I work with, that they have criteria that would qualify a client. These criteria might include that the client has a website that has trading functionality, that they have a minimum number of followers, or that they have a specific level of knowledge on a subject, that they have a minimum amount of money that qualifies them to work with someone or even that they have used a service like theirs previously.
To focus on client qualification we can look at three areas of client qualification; knowledge based, expectation based and financially based. Here is how it works.
Knowledge Based Qualification
- Has the client bought products like yours before? How did it work for them?How much money did they invest? Just how badly does the client want what you offer? Do they truly understand what your service of product can actually do for them? How much do they know about the service or product you offer? Do not fall into the trap of just talking about yourself. Use this questioning to establish specific qualification information. You will have time to sell yourself later. If could can find this out, the client is on the road to being qualified to work with you.
- What is their specific time line? By asking questions around this area we can establish whether they have given real consideration to purchasing what we offer and when their deadline is, leading to…
- Who else is the client talking to? If they have considered the time element, it could be that you are part of a tender process and they are investigating the market, so ask the question, “who else are you talking to, and what have they offered that you like?” If you are the only supplier then you have exclusivity on the client, so maximise it.
Expectation Based Qualification
- Clients always look for a return of investment which is absolutely correct; however in order to deliver, we need to understand their expectations and it is here we work on ROE which is return on expectation. We need to establish how they will use and make the product or service work. E.g. with training we look to see how objectives will be set from the training once it is delivered and then how this is linked to appraisals etc. Ask questions that include “How are you going to measure the success of this product?” “What are you going to be doing from your side in order to get the best return?”
- Think about what the client expects in terms of service delivery from you as a supplier. Some clients get suppliers to sign a service level agreement to help ensure tight delivery and can include negotiated tolerance levels. Ask the question “what does your business expect from suppliers and how do you manage that?”
- Think about what keeps the client up at night, what they worry about and how you can put their mind as ease, this is so important when delivering on expectations.
- It sounds crazy, but make sure when thinking about client expectations that you are speaking with the decision maker. Sometimes you can be dealing with a secondary person who has been tasked with researching the market or is a first tier buyer, but not the ultimate decision maker. Be aware that an MD might be able to recommend buying you, however the CFO has other ideas as they mange budgets, where as by contrast a CEO could sign off straight away.
Financial Based Qualification
- It is so important to talk about money, so remember it is not what you say or ask but how you say it. Be brave and don’t shy away from asking the right questions. If you don’t ask you could end up talking to someone who actually cannot afford what you offer or simply doesn’t see the value in what you offer. Ask the question “how much would you be looking to invest in something like this?”
- Thin about how much money they are comfortable spending. There is a point where a cost can be too much or too little, what is the amount they are comfortable with. This sounds odd, but if you were to go into a shop and look to buy a pair of handmade shoes, you know they are going to be expensive, so how expensive is comfortable? It could be that you would spend £600 on a pair, but somehow £650 is too much, that tiny extra tips you over. In business what is the client comfortable with, sell the value of what you offer. This leads to something else…
- How much money is the client good for right now? Do they have an amount of money that they are authorized to spend without further referral for more. Once you know, it makes it easier to work with. Of course remember that if the buyer says “I need to go and speak to my business partner about this” be prepared with the objection handling question “So based on everything we have talked about, if it were your decision would you be happy to go ahead?” This then transfers the sales process from you to them and when you follow up (and you will be sure to ask when they are speaking to the other party, won’t you?) you will find that the client will have sold your idea perfectly. Remember no one wants to admit to a sales person that they themselves cannot sell!
- Some clients are low spenders and easy to work with, others high spenders and easy to work with, others high spenders and hard to work with and other low spenders and hard to work with. Ask questions around value for money, what they expect.
- Work out your variables too, so that when the client agrees to work with you and the negotiation starts, that you have in mind, what the agreement looks like, how much, how many and how often things will happen, at what cost, paid in what way, and how often they will pay.
I mentioned earlier that a client will potentially, possibly or probably work with us, by asking questions to qualify the client we can then establish the likelihood of them actually going ahead and signing the contract. Once we have this qualification in place, it can help us curate really effective and impactful sales proposals and presentations that will mean the probability of the client working with us is increased.
From a reporting viewpoint we could create a table that looks like this. Filling in the boxes with a tick or comments at the various levels to feedback and manage the prospect list effectively. Managers and sales people like you love this.
|Client Name||Knowledge Based||Expectation Based||Financially Based|
So there we have it, a little session on Sales Qualification, there are other models too, anyway I hope you find it helpful, if you or your business needs sales training why not get in touch with me Simon Hares at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website serialtrainer7.com where you can meet me virtually on one of the many videos on the site. Happy selling and thank you so much for taking the time to read this.