Many of the clients we speak to have considerable experience about how to qualify a sale and the effort that this takes. However, they’re also usually aware that this is something that can always be adapted and improved upon. This is especially true as sales teams scale. 

Many clients also have a firm understanding of Sales Foundations but understand that enterprise deals require more advanced skills and processes. Our ultimate guide to sales qualification in 2022 provides the perfect insight into what’s required to successfully complete a sale.

What Is Sales Qualification?

Essentially, Sales Qualification is a way of determining whether a prospect or lead is worth investing your time in. While this may sound abrupt and to the point, this knowledge will allow you to utilise your skills effectively and save the client time as well. Sales qualification enables you to quickly decide whether or not you can add sufficient value to a customer.

Why Is Sales Qualification Critical?

Due to sales being a very time (and often energy) consuming role, it’s important to use this available time to the best of your ability. Wasting time on customers who are ill-suited to your offering is a bad use of your sales time, regardless of how much you’d like to do business with them. Using basic guidelines or questions to determine who is a qualified lead will allow you to put more energy into customers who need it and value your services.

Spending time focusing on the right customers will also allow for a better relationship between yourself and a customer throughout the process. The more time you spend with an unqualified or poorly qualified lead, the greater the likelihood of you missing quota (and your commission will be non-existent).

What Is A Lead Qualification Process?

Lead qualification simply means that you’ll have a consistent process in place to determine the likelihood of a sale. Using a mix of informal discussions and strategic questions, you’ll be able to establish whether you’re onto a winner.

While you don’t want to seem too robotic, many salespeople have a process or checklist in place to quickly determine a qualified lead. Using sales qualification questions is an important way of finding out everything you need to know. To avoid making the customer feel like they’re being vetted, position the conversation as part of your diagnostic process.

Why Is It Essential to Ask Sales Qualification Questions?

Having an instinctive chat with a potential client isn’t enough to establish whether they’re a good fit. Relying on a well-thought-out list of questions and a checklist for each new prospect is the best way to determine this. Once you have a checklist of questions, you can use this each time you meet a new prospect.

Essential Sales Qualification Questions

Whilst it’s important to have a list of questions that you require answers to, it’s also important not to bombard a client. Finding the right balance between information finding and having a relationship building conversation is something to consistently improve on. Try imagining that the roles were reversed:

  • Would you feel comfortable with the number of questions being asked?
  • Are the questions getting to the root of the problem or do they feel unnecessarily invasive?
  • Would you feel comfortable giving detailed answers about your own company at this stage in the relationship?

Having an idea of how these questions can make people feel is essential when creating your list.

1. What Problem Are You Trying To Fix? 

Usually, a business will have encountered a problem that is forcing its hand when it comes to implementing change. Ask the customer what the issues are so that you can delve deeper into potentially finding a solution for them.

Why It Works – Being able to lay the cards out on the table and establish what the issue is, allows for change. Ensuring that the customer knows there is an issue that needs resolving and the size of the prize for solving it is the first step towards a resolution.

2. Why Are They Looking For A Solution Now?

Establishing whether a business is looking for a solution because of a new or recurring problem is essential. If it is a new problem, some companies may jump head first into agreeing to a sale to immediately resolve their issue. If there is no compelling deadline forcing the prospect to make a decision, the sales cycle is likely to become protracted. It will also be difficult for the prospect to secure a budget to solve the problem without a business deadline.

Why It Works – Asking this question will allow you to set some boundaries for both sides. No compelling deadline by which to solve the problem usually means there isn’t a deal to be done – with anyone!

3. Have They Tried To Address This Problem Before?

Have they ttried to resolve this problem in the past and failed?. Ascertaining whether they have used a different company previously is critical:

  • Have they tried the same approach but with a different company?
  • Have they tried a different approach entirely and what happened?
  • Have they tried solving it internally and if so, what happened?

Why It Works – Not only can you gain a slight competitive edge when gaining details about other businesses, it helps to steer the future direction. Being aware of what other solution providers may have tried in the past, gives you an idea of what not to do. This knowledge will also provide you with an opportunity to reassure the customer that you can resolve their issues.

4. Who Is Involved In The Decision-Making Process? 

If you aren’t talking to the correct person who can make decisions, then you’re wasting both of your time. People often won’t mind you asking the question if you still engage with them rather than ignoring them once they aren’t part of the discussion. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending your time on a sales pitch, only to realise that your prospect has zero buying responsibility.

Why It Works – Asking this question allows you to get access to the right person at the right time. Spending time on a sales pitch to the wrong person is not only a waste of time but also shows a lack of commercial experience. Regardless of whether it seems like a blunt question to ask, businesses expect that this will be asked. Customers value their own time as much as you value yours. Don’t allow a seemingly awkward question to hinder your chances of progressing a sale.

5. Do The Other Stakeholders Have Any Concerns?

Once you’ve established who the main decision-maker is, it’s important to make a note of any concerns from other stakeholders. While this person may be the decision-maker, it can often be the case that they’ll be heavily influenced by others within their business. Get a solid idea of the types of concerns that are arising and from whom, so that you can be equipped to address them when required.

Why It Works – By encouraging transparency, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to field any concerns before they negatively affect a sale. Listening to the concerns of people who may influence a sale will give you scope to provide more in-depth explanations or solutions. Whilst it can be a challenge to take on board various opinions, adapting to this shows that you have the customer’s interest at heart.

6. What Does Your Ideal Timeline Look Like?

It’s vital that you establish an ideal customer timeline so that you’re able to deliver on this. If a business is panicking due to the issues they face, they can often be demanding a speedy resolution. Explaining exactly what can be achieved within the desired timeline will instantly set you up for success. Many businesses are flexible in regards to resolutions if they are fully aligned with a timescale from the beginning.

Why It Works – Asking this question sets a firm set of ground rules for each side. The customer will be aware that they cannot demand a faster result than agreed, and you’ll have visibility of your businesses forward workload/capacity. Using this as a negotiation tactic adds another string to your bow.

What is a sales qualification framework?

A sales qualification framework is a predetermined set of criteria that allows a salesperson to conduct a customer assessment. Using this framework, you’ll be able to establish whether a lead can become a qualified prospect. Once this is established, you can then proceed using your negotiation skills to secure a sale.

There are 4 main methods that are often used within sales qualification frameworks. while they are similar to each other, they are referred to by different acronyms:

  1. BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)

Budget – Can the customer afford the product that you’re selling? Is it a line item in their existing budget?

Authority – Can the person that you’re dealing with, make decisions on behalf of the business? Do they have any control over the sale?

Need – What is the issue that needs resolving? Is this a new or ongoing problem?

Timeline – Is this an urgent requirement? Is there room for timescale negotiation?

  1. CHAMP (CHallenges, Authority, Money, Priority)

CHallenges – What issues is the business facing? What requires a resolution?

Authority – Who will be making decisions about which supplier to appoint in relation to these issues?

Money – Is there enough of a budget within the business to implement change?

Priority – Where does this fall in a list of priorities for the customer? Will there be waiting time while the customer decides to implement change?

  1. FAINT (Funds, Authority, Interest, Needs, Timing)

Funds – Does the business have the available funds to purchase your product?

Authority – Does the customer have buying authority for the entire business?

Interest – Is the customer genuinely showing interest in your product or service?

Needs – Are you solving a problem for them? Do they have a specific need that needs to be addressed?

Timing – Do they have a completion date in mind? How long have they anticipated that implementation will take?

  1. SCOTSMAN (Solution, Competition, Originality, Timescales, Size, Money, Authority, Need)

Solution – Do you genuinely believe that your product will solve the customer’s problem?

Competition – Has there been a tender from a rival business? Is the customer more likely to opt for the competitor? Do they have an incumbent supplier?

Originality – What makes your offering different?

Timescales – How can you provide a solution within a required timescale?

Size – Is this a large enough sale to require your full attention and efforts?

Money – Is there enough customer budget to implement change?

Authority – Who is in charge of financial decision-making?

Need – Does the customer understand their need for your product?

The Ultimate Guide To Sales Qualification

We’ve discussed many options to ensure that you’ll be able to successfully qualify a sale. While it may seem overwhelming, it’s worth noting that the core elements remain the same. Pick your approach and implement it rigorously across your sales teams for every opportunity. You’ll be far more likely to meet quota and land work with more of the right clients.