The discovery call is one of the most important conversations a salesperson can have with a potential customer.
It's a proverbial fork in the road for you and your prospect — they’re a good enough fit for your product or service to warrant discussing next steps, or it’s time to part ways.
But making that call is easier said than done. That’s where sales qualification comes in.
By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to determine whether the relationship should continue and the appropriate next steps to take if a deal is ultimately viable. This guide will walk you through the fundamentals of sales qualification, present the different frameworks you can use, and provide pointers on disqualification and conversational tip-offs to listen for.
如果没有销售资格，您可能每天都会与数百个潜在客户交谈 - 只需获得一两个封闭式优惠即可为您提供所有的努力。这是任何成功的销售流程的重要组成部分，但是为什么如此关键？让我们来看看。
Why is sales qualification important?
Sales qualification is simply a better way to do sales. It allows you to pursue the leads who are most likely to purchase the product, saving you time and energy.
Here are more reasons sales qualification is so important:
- You can move on when the lead isn’t qualified and spend more time on the prospects who are more likely to buy.
- You can focus on a smaller, specific segment of buyers, which can help you deliver a more personalized selling experience.
- You can learn the ins and outs of the buyer’s challenges and deliver a better solution as a result.
- You can guarantee that most of your activities lead to a positive impact in revenue.
- You can create different sales qualification processes for different verticals and keep a list of pitches that still feel personalized.
By intentionally qualifying prospects through adiscovery call，您可以提供高度量身定制的解决方案，以提高购买后满意度。
What does the sales qualification process look like as a whole? Let’s walk through that below.
Lead Qualification Process
In a sales organization, there are several types of leads:
- Unqualified Leads：未合格的潜在客户在flywheelto be forwarded to a sales team.
- 营销Qualified Leads (MQLs): mql领导是谁适合接收营销communications such as email campaigns, content offers, and more.
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)：SQLS是准备与销售代表建立联系并开始销售过程的潜在客户。
- 产品合格的线索（PQL）: PQLs have indicated a strong interest in the product by either starting a freemium subscription or signing up for a free trial.
- Conversion Qualified Leads (CQLs): A CQL is any lead who has converted on your website, either by submitting a form or by pressing a click-to-call button.
These leads are then fed into a lead qualification framework, where you can then ask a series ofqualifying questions发现他们是否好或糟糕的产品-fit.
Let's take a look at three of the most crucial aspects of the lead qualification process: qualifying questions, qualified prospects, and frameworks you can use to qualify leads.
What is a qualifying question?
A qualifying question helps the salesperson determine their prospect's fit for one criteria. That might be need, budget, authority, sense of urgency, or another factor.
A good qualifying question is typically open-ended. Asking a close-ended question, like"Is this a priority right now?"将买家的答案盒子盒子。更好的版本将是”这将落在您的业务优先级列表中？”Because you're not leading the prospect to an answer, the response will usually be more honest and revealing.
Here are some good qualifying questions:
- What has prevented you from trying to solve the problem until now?
What is a qualified prospect?
You’ll typically do the bulk of your qualification during a discovery call, but it certainly isn’t where qualification starts or ends. At every step of the sales process, you’ll continuously evaluate prospects for more and more specific characteristics.
Sales reps must qualify prospects at three different levels — "organization-level," "opportunity-level," and "stakeholder-level" qualification.
Organization-Level Prospect Qualification
This is the most basic level of qualification, and doesn’t tell you much other than whether you should do more research. If your company has buyer personas, reference them when qualifying a prospect. Does the buyer match the demographics of a given persona?
Questions you should ask at this stage include:
- Is the prospect in your territory?
- Do you sell to their industry?
- What’s the company size?
Opportunity-Level Prospect Qualification
To determine whether your prospect is qualified on an opportunity level, ask the following:
- Do they have a challenge that your product can help them solve?
- Do they have a team or a person who’ll be using the product?
Stakeholder-Level Prospect Qualification
Let’s say you’ve determined that your prospect’s company is a good match for your solution and fits your ideal buyer persona. It’s time to get into the nitty-gritty — can your point of contact actually pull the trigger on a purchase decision?
To determine this, ask your prospect the following questions:
- Who else is involved in the decision?
- Do you have criteria for this purchase decision? Who defined them?
For instance, if your prospect is a complete departure from your company’s buyer persona, it’s safe to disqualify them right then and there on an organizational level. Maybe one day, you’ll serve their type of buyer, but right now you don’t — so don’t waste time trying to shoehorn your offering into their business.
Similarly, you could be speaking with the CEO of an organization with complete budget authority who passes stakeholder-level qualification with flying colors. But if there’s no problem, there’s no need for your solution. Qualify for business pain first.
Also, keep in mind that unless a prospect can be qualified on all three levels, you shouldn’t advance them in the sales process. For example, if you ask your prospect about the company’s strategic goals and they’re unable to answer, it’s a good sign they’re not close enough to the decision process and lack influence.
You should disqualify this contact at the stakeholder level, even though they pass at the opportunity level.
Many salespeople are loath to disqualify prospects and shrink their pipelines.
了until now, we’ve discussed qualifying questions and what a qualified prospect looks like. You can organize all of the processes we’ve discussed thus far usinglead qualification frameworks.
A qualification framework is essentially a rubric that salespeople can use to determine whether a prospect is likely to become a successful customer.
Every customer and every sale is different, but all closed-won deals share commonalities. Sales qualification frameworks distill those shared characteristics into general traits reps can look for when qualifying.
The BANT Qualification Framework
The Old Faithful of sales qualification frameworks, BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) is used at a variety of companies and in a variety of markets.
- Budget: Is the prospect capable of buying?
- Authority: Does your contact have adequate authority to sign off on a purchase?
- 需要: Does the prospect have a business pain you can solve?
- Timeline: When is the prospect planning to buy?
Here are a few examples of BANT questions in the context of a prospect conversation:
|Information to uncover||questions to ask|
While BANT addresses many opportunity-level requirements, it misses the mark on others.
The “ultimate” buying authority could be more than one person. Make sure you engage all relevant stakeholders early on in the process and secure each individual’s buy-in.
“Timeline” is another area where BANT falls short today. A strict BANT qualification might tell you to cycle a lead who won’t be ready to buy until next year into a closed-lost queue.
But you might be acting prematurely — send over educational resources and offer to help until they’re ready to buy, if you can.
MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, Champion)was pioneered by Jack Napoli when he was at technology company PTC. MEDDIC requires sales reps to understand every aspect of a target company's purchase process, down to whether you have an internal champion — an employee at a prospective company who will internally sell your product.
MEDDIC was incredibly valuable for increasing forecasting accuracy, something that's crucial for companies that sell to enterprise companies — after all, losing just one deal can be debilitating when each is worth several million dollars.
You should consider using MEDDIC as a qualification framework if your company sells a product that requires a transformation in behavior or average sales price is incredibly high, as understanding exactly how a prospect buys, why they would buy, and who's championing you internally is crucial to maintaining an accurate pipeline.
CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, and Prioritization) is similar to ANUM but places Challenges ahead of Authority.
CHAMP also defines authority as a “call-to-action,” not a roadblock. If your initial contact is a low-level employee, you can safely assume they won’t be the decision-maker. That doesn’t mean you should hang up the phone. Instead, ask questions that help you map the company’s organizational hierarchy to determine who to reach out to next.
Yes, it’s a long acronym, but a useful one. Developed at HubSpot, the qualification framework GPCTBA/C&I (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority/Negative Consequences and Positive Implications) is a response to changes in buyer behavior. Buyers come to the sales process increasingly informed, so salespeople need to add value on top of product knowledge.
But value isn’t something sales reps can just "add" — to truly act as an advisor, you must explore beyond the scope of the discrete problem that your product or service could solve. This means understanding a prospect’s strategic goals, their company’s business model, and how the specific issue you’re discussing fits into the larger picture of their professional life.
Here are some of the questions you should ask at each step:
- What is your top priority this year?
- Do you have published revenue goals for this quarter/year?
Once you understand your prospect’s goals, find out what work they’ve already done to achieve them. Determine what’s worked and what hasn’t, and make suggestions for improvement.
- What are you planning to do to achieve your goals?
- Do you think XYZ might make it hard to implement your plan?
- Do you have the right resources available to implement this plan?
Defining your prospect’s challenges — and reinforcing that what they’ve already tried isn’t working — is crucial. Unless they understand that they need help, a prospect won’t become a customer.
- Why do you think you’ll be able to eliminate this challenge now, even though you’ve tried in the past and you’re still dealing with it?
- Do you think you have the internal expertise to deal with these challenges?
- Do you have bandwidth and resources to implement this plan now?
- Would you like help thinking through the steps involved in executing this plan, so you can figure out when you should implement each piece?
Just asking"What’s your budget?", isn’t a question likely to get you valuable insight, according to HubSpot sales director Dan Tyre.
Instead, try asking:
- Are we in agreement on the potential ROI of [product or service]?
- Are you spending money on another product to solve the problem we’ve discussed?
Then, go in for the kill. Databox CEO and former HubSpot VP of Sales Pete Caputa suggests phrasing the budget question this way:
- Are the goals we’ve discussed important to the economic buyer?
- How should we go about getting the economic buyer on board?
“If your product can significantly help them avoid consequences and further aid in achieving even bigger follow-up goals, you’ve got a very strong value proposition,” Caputa says.
Here are some C&I questions to ask prospects:
- When you overcome this challenge, what will you do next?
- Do you stand to get promoted or get more resources if you can hit your goal? Would you lose responsibility or be demoted if you don’t?
The benefit of GPCTBA/C&I is that it allows salespeople to gather a huge amount of information. If your product is complex, highly differentiated, and stands to become an integral part of your prospect’s business strategy, having these insights is incredibly valuable. Sales reps selling these kinds of products need to step into their prospects’ world to be effective advisors and business partners.
However, GPCTBA/C&I might not be right for every sales force. Depending on what you sell, such thorough qualification may not be necessary.
需要functions the same way as it does in BANT, but has been moved up in priority. Urgency correlates with Timing, while Money replaces Budget.
Like ANUM, reps using FAINT should look for organizations with the capacity to buy, regardless of whether a discrete budget has been set aside. FAINT also adds Interest into the mix.
根据Rain Group的John Doerr和Mike Schultz的说法，兴趣被定义为“从买家那里学习可能的东西，以及如何实现与今天的现实相比，如何实现新的和更好的现实”。
Sales Qualifying: Good Signs and Red Flags
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: "It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it."
Here are some tip-offs (both good and bad) to listen for when qualifying a prospect that can help you determine whether to advance the sales process or disqualify ASAP.
Wait. How can excuses be a good thing?
借口help resolve our actions with who we want to be. During a sales conversation, your ears should perk up if your prospect tries to explain away previous inaction regarding business pain. This indicates one of two things: either the excuse is legitimate, or your prospect wishes they had done something about it earlier and is trying to rationalize why they didn’t. Either way, it confirms their pain is real.
可以为问题提供具体答案的潜在客户“你的目标是什么？”and"When do you need to see results?"仔细考虑他们的问题。聆听顺序计划，思考解释和统计数据。细节还表明您的前景会感到真正的痛苦。毕竟，没有真正问题的人不会花时间思考自己为什么存在以及如何解决问题。
Of course, the caveat is that specifics must be accompanied by reality. A prospect who says,“我想在接下来的两周内获得四倍的收入，”is using specifics to demonstrate that they don’t have strong business acumen.
Red Flags in the Sales Process
A prospect whose answers contradict each other is likely one who wants to be helpful, but can’t because they don’t possess adequate knowledge. However, this isn’t a dealbreaker — prod them to tell you who does know the answers, and continue qualifying the opportunity with another contact.
True business pain permeates an organization — executives lose sleep over it and employees have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. If you give the impression that you can help alleviate the pain, prospects will want to talk to you.
Over to You
Sales success rests on effective qualification. Your ability to find good fit prospects will make or break your business. Prospects who turn into happy customers mean not only revenue, but increased word-of-mouth, referrals, and the possibility of cross- or upselling. So it’s imperative that you get it right.
编者按:这篇文章最初发表in September 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Apr 22, 2021 1:45:00 PM, updated April 22 2021