Timing is everything, and in the process of trying to make a sale, there are certain things that must be done at certain times. If a salesperson qualifies too late or offers a proposal too early, it can botch the entire deal.
One reason bunsiness take a long time to close a new account is due to an inflated pipeline. This happens when salespeople fill their pipelines with all prospects, not simply the qualified ones. Salespeople spend their time chasing everyone instead of pursuing only the prospects who are most likely to buy from them, and turn into good clients.
Weak salespeople are afraid of hearing the word “no.” So they pursue the “yes” with a vengeance. They ask easy questions. When they sense red flags, they don’t address them at all – and they usually end up sinking the deal anyway.
Qualification is about both sides figuring out whether it makes sense to do business or not. Why wouldn’t both parties want to know the answer to that question sooner rather than later? Cut to the chase, figure out if it makes sense to do business, and then spend the rest of your time figuring out how.
Proposing to poor prospects is also a waste of time. There are two things that a prospect typically wants to learn in the buying process: what is your business’ solution, and how much does it cost? The proposal typically answers both questions at the same time, but salespeople can sometimes give away the things that the prospects want without trading them for anything. It’s no wonder that salespeople sometimes feel like they don’t have any leverage – they gave it up the moment that they sent the proposal.
Proposals should only go out to prospects who are qualified to receive them. That means that salespeople need to gather as much information as possible about the prospect before deciding whether or not to propose. At a minimum they should know:
What is the compelling reason that the prospect will buy me—or anyone? This is not just the problem, but the full impact of the problem.
Is the prospect willing and able to spend money to solve their problem?
What are the criteria that the prospect is using to make their decision?
There are many more questions that also serve to qualify a prospect, but if you can’t at least answer these minimum questions, you shouldn’t be proposing.
There’s a reason “time is money” is a well-worn cliché – it’s true. Don’t waste it on prospects who won’t buy, or on creating proposals that will torpedo a fledgling deal. Spend it wisely, on cultivating the kinds of prospects that you actually want to work with.