The Sales Prime Directive

The Sales Prime Directive image prime directive 6 150x150prime directive 6In major account selling what is worse then doing a good job chasing bad business? Not much. In major accounts there are two main objectives that must be achieved to qualify a lead. First, it is important to determine if there is funding for the opportunity. Second, you must determine “fit” – to what degree are the customer’s needs and specifications for the opportunity aligned with your capabilities?

Funding. Finding out information about funding can be difficult. But you can’t find out if you don’t ask and it is okay to ask. However it is important to make sure you are talking with someone who knows the answer to the funding questions so you don’t get poor information or end up asking the same questions again and again to different people all of whom don’t know the answers.

  • If funding has not been identified, there is an opportunity to help the customer seek the right amount by carefully determining the estimated cost and pre-selling them on that amount. If done correctly this can be helpful to both you and the customer.
  • If funding has been identified, asking questions about their estimated budget or what they have in mind to support the effort is fair and can yield beneficial results. It not only helps you competitively; it can also enable you to continue to shape thinking about a realistic price.

Fit. When it comes to fit, it is good to remember that fit is a two-way street. You must determine in an objective fashion the degree of fit between the customer’s needs and specifications and your capabilities. In addition, you must obtain the customer’s perception of that fit. It is a classic trap to assume there is a perfect alignment of those two points of view. The customer almost always holds some misperceptions about your capabilities.

The customer’s specifications for deciding between competitors can vary from criteria that are concrete (e.g., the extent of experience with the customer) to ones which are more difficult to define (e.g., vendor’s capability for innovation). It is important to develop a shared view of the meaning of the criteria and to get a sense about the relative priority in regard to importance.

Summary. In the major account market, miscalculations around qualifying leads can have significant consequences either due to opportunities missed or to wasted time and money pursuing bad business. Developing specialized training to help account executives improve their skill set for qualifying leads is money well invested.

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