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Do you have difficulty qualifying enough sales opportunities that turn into revenue? Stop qualifying them, and start disqualifying them instead!
It is a change of mindset, but this vision follows the logic and shape of the sales funnel.
This may seem strange, but when you start from the negative, you have a positive attitude right away. We often talk about the qualification stage, when in reality, we should talk about the stage of disqualifying potential customers.
Indeed, by wanting to qualify customers absolutely, representatives are trying to match with customers who may not be compatible. As a result, they become more vulnerable to happy ears or to a lack of scepticism. Instead of trying to get items into a box that do not belong in it, representatives should instead remove items that do not meet the criteria established to get into the box.
Concretely, this means that you must disqualify potential customers.
Two golden rules for following the disqualification method
1. Fill up on opportunities
For the disqualification method to work, representatives must have enough opportunities in the funnel. Without this constant stream of opportunities, they will not be able to set up a real disqualification process, as they will always be afraid of not having enough options to achieve the objectives.
In sales management, one of the basic rules is to ensure that the sales pipeline is full. This eliminates half of your sales problems – including qualification problems.
2. Learning to say no to make better choices
The second rule is difficult for sales representatives to follow, and even more difficult for sales managers to accept: representatives must learn to refuse opportunities… but not just any opportunities.
It is often a complex change for veterans who have eventually developed certain methods. Saying no to a business opportunity is completely counter-intuitive for a seller – including me. Even if representatives are still looking to make new sales, they must be able to say no to certain revenues. Ultimately, the sales team must know and understand that some revenues are simply not profitable for the company. Not all sales opportunities are equal, so it is important to know which ones best meet the company’s criteria.
This approach is very difficult to master. It requires a lot of skills, a strong sales DNA and, above all, effective sales management. It is the role of the sales manager to hold accountable representatives to disqualify opportunities that are least compatible with the criteria. Indeed, it must put in place measures to ensure that sellers disqualify all their bad elements – that they take out dead wood – so as to not bias the sales forecasts.
How can we disqualify customers instead of qualifying them?
First, the main criteria for disqualification must be clearly identified. The representative must be familiar with the company’s “sandbox”, i.e. the ideal customers it targets. Once the criteria have been identified, the important thing is to apply them properly.
Example #1: Does a potential client have the necessary funds?
In qualification mode, if I realize the answer is no, I tell myself that they could find the necessary money. Consequently, I qualify them in the pipeline.
However, it is exactly the opposite that must be done. In disqualification mode, if a customer does not have the funds, I have to take them out of the pipeline. That is essential.
One day, this same prospect could return to the sales pipeline, but for now, he must leave it.
Example #2: Is the decision-maker involved in the sales process?
If I want to qualify a client, I will compensate for the fact that the decision-maker is not directly involved by telling myself that he or she will probably be present at the final meeting.
If I use the disqualification method, I realize that the decision-maker is not really involved, so I remove him from the sales pipeline.
Conclusion: Be exclusive!
We can clearly see the nuance that must be developed in the interpretation of the selection criteria. Basically, it’s about having the right mindset: eliminating all potential customers who don’t match. Note that this is a fundamental method for developing reliable sales forecasts.
In fact, I have the same attitude when I recruit. I use an exclusive method. This is one of the things that sets us apart from most recruiters who use an inclusive approach. We prefer to start with a large pool of candidates and eliminate elements that do not meet the criteria. As a result, our results are better, more reliable, but also more predictable. Again, to have a funnel-shaped pipeline, you have to disqualify!