There are times when sales reps identify opportunities that, for whatever reason, they just can't win.Perhaps it is the competitive nature of many sales reps and the challenge to cling to an unqualified opportunity because he or she was able to secure a meeting. Or maybe the salesperson is overly optimistic and sends a proposal to a prospect that is not qualified. There may very well be genuine interest in your products and services, however, the interest is with someone who doesn’t have the authority to make the purchase. Whatever the situation, often sales reps spend too much time trying to close an unqualified opportunity.
A pipeline full of unqualified opportunities could give those in a sales role a false sense of security that there’s enough in the pipeline to meet their sales goals. Yet ultimately, a full pipeline with unqualified leads will actually be a barrier to meeting, let alone exceeding, these goals.
Why No-Decision Opportunities will Drain Your Time and Energy
There are only three outcomes for every opportunity in your pipeline today:
- You win and they buy from you.
- You lose and they choose another alternative.
- The prospect does nothing – there is no decision.
Our experience shows that these three outcomes are split fairly evenly – approximately 1/3 of all opportunities are won, 1/3 are lost, and 1/3 result in a no-decision.
Eliminating the “No-Decision” alternative from your pipeline sooner rather than later can be the single greatest productivity increase available and will have a dramatic effect on higher close rates.
How do you do it? How quickly in the sales cycle can unqualified leads be identified and removed from call lists, follow up reminders, and calendar placeholders so that time is focused on moving qualified leads forward?
A rigorous qualification method that is based on the buyer and buying process lends itself to eliminating this no-decision segment. It is the single most important factor to reduce the risk of a full, but stalled pipeline.
A Framework for Improved Prospect Qualification
Prospect qualification is a multi-dimensional set of criteria which enables the sales rep to mitigate the risk of working an unqualified opportunity at any point in the sales cycle.
At ValueSelling Associates, we enable salespeople with the skills and tools required to consistently qualify opportunities. Sales teams are trained to ask the right qualifying questions and then mastering the skill comes with practice.
The ValueSelling Framework Qualified Prospect Formula prompts conversations that confirm the prospect’s reason to change and the positive impact of that change. Effective qualifying questions are asked intentionally to uncover the prospect’s answer and point of view as to:
- Should they buy this from you?
- Is it worth it?
- Can they buy?
- When will they buy?
This thoughtful and timely questioning process lends itself to identifying the gaps and potential loopholes in the buying process and then to creating plans to close those gaps and win the opportunity. When the confirmed answers point to a no-decision, it’s time to move on. And by that I mean, move on from the lead if your product or service is not the right fit, or if the organization is restructuring and there is no funding this year. Or, as welcoming as your prospect is to taking your calls, you learn they are not the decision maker and you now need to make in-roads with the person or persons who can actually make a purchasing decision. Your deliberate questioning may lead to information that there is no immediate need for your product or service, but you are encouraged to stay in touch. You move on but also stay relevant by connecting on LinkedIn and keeping appraised of the company’s changes.
The Impact of Eliminating the No-Decision
Although we can grasp the concept of saving time and frustration by eliminating the no-decision, there is a real, tangible impact on your win rate as well.
When you push to effectively qualify every opportunity, you will wring the bloat out of your sales pipeline, and boost your win rate. High performing reps consistently qualify the opportunities in the pipeline. They are relentless in moving unqualified opportunities out of the pipeline. The result is higher win rates. With their success, they seek qualified opportunities and are in a position to win. They don’t waste precious selling time on unqualified opportunities.
In summary, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security when your pipeline may be full of no-decision or unwinnable opportunities. Step up, rigorously qualify, and prepare to see your win rate increase.