How to Continually Qualify Prospects Throughout the Pipeline

Accurate and reliable forecasting will transform a sales organization.

When it comes to a process as vital as this, you would assume there’s no room for guesswork — but the reality plays out differently:

In a recent Forrester study, 60% of respondents said they did not have a well-defined or scientific approach to sales forecasting — and it’s not for lack of effort. When asked how much time they spend on forecasting weekly, 25% of all respondents said 100 hours or more. (Outreach)

Yikes! At that point, you’re dedicating a tremendous amount of resources to an educated guess.

Now, that’s not to say the obstacles standing in your way are easily overcome. After all, most sales teams treat qualification as a discrete event, not realizing that it’s a process — one that’s not always linear.

They also typically lack a common language for describing opportunities. As a result, information degrades at every step, and salespeople fall back on their instincts when predicting outcomes. This adds another layer of abstraction and eats up more of sales managers’ valuable time.

What’s the fix? You must embrace a framework for ongoing qualification: A multi-dimensional set of criteria that sellers repeatedly use to mitigate the risk of working unqualified opportunities and improve forecast accuracy.

It all begins with these four questions.

Should they buy?

Problem: There is a significant trust gap between B2B buyers and sellers. To the point that buyers bypass the best solution in favor of the one that offers the lowest risk. (Forrester)

Solution: Clearly, products and features are not the answer. B2B buyers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Sales professionals must begin by establishing a solid foundation of credibility, trust and rapport with potential buyers. From there, honestly evaluate whether your solution is a good fit.

Is there enough value to prompt action?

Problem: Salespeople will always be tempted to go after the pain — and organizations will always have pain points that they have absolutely no interest in solving.

Solution: Set the ROI of your product/solution on firm footing and ensure that there is enough value — for the company and the individual — to create urgency and motivate change. Because no matter what you’re selling, you’re selling change. Use that to your advantage.

Can they buy?

Problem: Sales reps work hard to forge impactful relationships. As a result, they’re tempted to cling to their champion inside a client organization. However, if you are not talking to the final decision-maker, the deal is ultimately at risk.

Solution: Use the O-P-C questioning technique to ensure you thoroughly understand the prospect’s buying process and have identified everyone who can influence the deal and those who will have the final say.

Is there a plan in place?

Problem: As we get ready for summer in the northern hemisphere, the potential to be blindsided by OoO responses only increases.

Solution: Salespeople should work with prospects to build a two-way understanding of a company’s crucial business issues and the activities required to solve them. This mutual plan is a powerful tool for building buyer confidence — and ensuring that deals don’t unexpectedly stall.

Ultimately, when you treat qualification as an ongoing event, you set sellers up for success — reducing frustrations and no-decisions while maximizing time spent on winnable opportunities. The results are an increase in win rate, the quality of your data and your forecast accuracy.

Until next time, happy selling,


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