Qualifying a lead and deciding if an individual or business will make a purchasing decision goes to the heart of a strong business.

## Six Serving Men

Google recently started a program where it reads your email content (and I assume other online things about you ad well) and using this information tries to predict what you are interested in and will buy. Using this prediction it then serves up advertising based on a complex mathematical formulae.

Influencing a decision to purchase and closing a deal is a complex interaction. Trying to predict consumer behaviour and interest based on email, online content viewed and other empirical and measurable data is at best a blunt instrument. It would be nice to think a simple formula could predict all outcomes. I suspect Google has a lot more work to do.

I had one of those amazing sales call where everything went well. I arrived back at the office and shared the news of a new opportunity. My sales manager smiled and asked “Is this opportunity qualified?”

Ouch. He had asked the one question sales people hate to hear – and it can come from many quarters.

My project manager asks “How much time should I invest in supporting the sale?”

My CFO asks “How much money will we need to invest to win the deal and what is the chance we will get a return on investment?”

When I get home I tell my wife about the opportunity and get the same question “Is this a real opportunity?” as she knows how many late nights I will need to work to win the deal and is already planning on how to spend the commission.

Is the opportunity qualified” is probably the most important question you need to ask, yet is also the most difficult to answer.

## Why Qualify the Opportunity?

Qualification is all about the close-ability of an opportunity. You are determining if the person or company you are selling to will make a decision to buy something. Once you determine they are likely to buy something, then you determine if you or your company can deliver the product or service in a way the customer will want to buy.

Qualification, depending on what it is your are selling, will include emotional, practical, financial and logical components and you need to know where you stand in all four areas. The larger and more complex an opportunity the more effort needs to go into understanding each aspect of the opportunity.

Qualification, based on the answers to your questions, will give you an answer to the close-ability of the opportunity. This, in turn, will determine the amount of effort you will put into developing and closing.

## A Reason to Call

Before I pick up the telephone to make my first call I like to have established in my mind a potential need. I can usually determine this with a bit of research and using information I glean from people in similar roles.

Recent research has shown most people make a decision who they want to buy from after the first or second sales call. From then on most ales activity is around helping a client make a decision to buy from you.

The single reason many sales people fail is that they do not invest enough time and effort understanding their client before they pick up the telephone for the first time.

Having a valid reason to call involves giving your prospect a reason for investing some of their valuable time in a meeting with you. While it may reinforce your reasons for making the call, it emphasizes their priorities and not yours and accomplishes two things;

• It gives them information they need in order to understand exactly who you are and why you wish to schedule a meeting
• It establishes a common foundation so when you meet you will have a point to transition to questioning and understanding their business further

## Qualification Questions

Now you have made the appointment and are in front of your prospect Qualification is about understanding how you and your organisation fits the opportunity and how well your client is prepared to accept help.

Rudyard Kipling said “I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I know); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

Using questions starting with these words you can open and keep the conversation going with your client.

Why do you think this is?”

When did you first notice it?”

How have you tried to solve the problem so far?”

Where else do you see this problem?”

Who else experiences similar results?”

The last qualification questions are the most important. You need to determine if the person you are dealing with has the means to make a decision and if not who else do you need to be speaking with.

Using the same words you ask questions like;

Have they shared their concerns about the cost of doing nothing with others in the organisation?”

“How have they done projects like this before?”

What steps will we need to take to more this forward?”

Who else will this project impact?”

How are they likely to pay for it? or will they finance it?”

When will be the ideal time to schedule the project to fit into their schedule? “

Today’s question and actions

Qualification is all about determining the close-ability of an opportunity.

This week, when you meet with clients, or indeed anyone you wish to influence, invest time using the six serving men and listen carefully to the answers. You will be surprised how long a person can talk about themselves and their company. As long as you focus on them, and keep the questions open, they will eventually tell you everything you need to know.

Using the answers to some basic questions you need never fear the question “Is it Qualified” as you will have the answer.

Have a great week!

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