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Stop Wasting Time on Prospects Who Won't Buy
Alan Rigg

Learn how to qualify prospects beyond just money, authority and need so you can focus your time and energy on opportunities you can win.

Do you have blind faith that, if you can somehow convince a prospect to engage in a sales cycle, you will eventually make a sale? If you do, watch out! This belief can waste your time, effort, and company resources.

How many of the opportunities in your pipeline have been stalled at the same step in the sales cycle for weeks or months? In how many opportunities have you and your company invested enormous amounts of time, energy and resources (conducting product demonstrations, writing lengthy proposals, providing product evaluations, etc.), only to have the prospect decide they don't want to buy, or prove incapable of funding the purchase? Even when you make sales, how many turn out to be nightmare customers who are always dissatisfied and consume huge amounts of post-sale resources? Unfortunately, simply investing your time and resources does not necessarily produce the results you want.

All prospects are not created equal
As a sales professional, you need to help your prospects explore whether their business problems are substantial enough to justify investing time in a sales cycle. However, you also need to figure out whether each prospect is worthy of your time and resources. If a prospect is not a good fit, gracefully exit from the opportunity.

How can you determine whether you have a worthy prospect? Many sales skills training courses teach an acronym, M-A-N, that stands for Money, Authority, and Need. The basic idea is to determine whether:

  1. The prospect is willing to commit enough budget dollars (Money) to pay for the product or service;
  2. The key decision-makers and influencers (Authority) have been identified; and
  3. The prospect's pain (Need) is severe enough to justify investing in a solution.
Unfortunately, even when you do a good job of M-A-N qualification, you can still be blindsided by issues that delay sales cycles or destroy opportunities outright.

For example, some prospects may prove incapable of securing financing. They may have a budget, but they are not creditworthy, so they can't fund the budget. In other situations, decision-makers may need to have specific information provided in a specific format before they can authorize a buying decision.

Sometimes you may invest considerable time and effort in troubleshooting complex problems and designing solutions, only to be informed that the prospect must take the proposed solution out to bid. This can lead to your losing the opportunity to a low bidder or the profitability of the opportunity being cut.

To avoid these situations, add additional questions to your M-A-N qualification process. The acronym that I have assigned to this revised process is M-A-I-N BP, which stands for Money, Authority, Information, Need, and Buying Process. Here are some sample M-A-I-N BP questions:

Money

  • How will your prospect pay for the product or service?
  • Has a budget been established?
  • Are they creditworthy?
Authority

  • Who in the prospect's organization needs to approve an acquisition of this nature?
Information

  • What information do the decision-makers require before they can make a decision?
  • What format does this information need to be in?
Need

  • What are the prospect's business problems?
  • How compelling are they? In other words, can you quantify or associate dollars, percentages, and time frames with the pain the prospect is feeling?
  • Are these quantified business impacts substantial enough to warrant investment by the prospect's organization (and your company) in identifying and fixing the problems?
Buying Process

  • What is the prospect's buying process?
  • What impact might this process have on the profitability of the transaction?
  • What competitive advantage will you receive if you invest your time and resources in designing a solution that goes out to bid?
If you decide to add M-A-I-N BP qualification to your sales opportunity qualification process, here are some final thoughts to keep in mind.

If you don't know the answers to all of the M-A-I-N BP questions, it is highly likely you are wasting your time and resources.

Opportunity qualification is not a one-time event. As an opportunity advances through the sales cycle, you should frequently ask whether any of the answers to the qualification questions have changed. If an answer has changed, it could affect the length of the sales cycle and even destroy the viability of the opportunity. At minimum, an answer change will probably require a change in focus and/or reprioritizing your planned activities.

Never feel bad about disqualifying a particular opportunity because the amount of opportunity in most sales territories is virtually unlimited. If you carefully qualify and re-qualify each opportunity, and only invest time and resources in qualified ones, you will maximize your return on your investment.

Sales performance expert Alan Rigg is the author of "How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Sales Team Performance" and "How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Selling." His 80/20 Selling System™ helps business owners, executives, and managers end the frustration of 80/20 sales team performance, where 20% of salespeople produce 80% of sales. For more information and FREE sales and sales management tips, visit www.8020SalesPerformance.com.
 
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