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SalesLinks Bulletin Archive

Sep 21-27, 1998

The Fundamentals of Qualifying Business-to-Business Prospects

jack carrollby Jack Carroll

This column deals primarily with business-to-business selling, which can be very different from "retail" or business-to-consumer selling. Some of you involved in retail selling took issue last week with some of my views on "disqualification."

I can only say that this column presents my professional viewpoint, not the 10 commandments. There is room in selling for differences of style—lots of room. Be wary of anybody who tells you or implies that their way of selling is the only way that things can or should be done.

So, what is a qualified prospect and what do you do when you find one? It's a buyer who has a need or a desire for your product because it satisfies that need or solves some problem that they have been grappling with. This is the most primary level of buyer qualification. If there is no need, no desire, or no problem, then you don't have a legitimate prospect.

Once this primary qualification has been met and the value of your product(s) has been established, move on to the next four squares of the qualification process: people, process, timing, and budget.

  • People. Who are the people involved in the decision making process and what are their roles? Typically there are multiple decision makers involved in a complex sale such as technology or professional services. Each one fulfills a different, critical role.
  • Process. How do they go about making a decision? What are the steps or processes involved? Map it out and get their agreement on the map.
  • Timing. What is their timetable? When will they be evaluating or buying? How long will it take them once they start. What is the urgency? Why are they looking now?
  • Budget. Do they have budget approved? Is it adequate? Or will they have to get money from new budget allocations?

When you have completed primary qualification and have the answers to all of these questions in hand, you are ready to manage the sale. If you don't have this information, you are operating on hopes and dreams. Shaky ground in sales.

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Sales Tip and Practice
For purposes of trade show sales leverage, organize your follow up activities around "timing." A sale for a smaller amount of money that will happen in the next 30 days is much more leveraged now than a bigger one that will not happen for three to six months. Respond and dig in deep on short term sales. Follow up and manage the rest in available time.

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