sales-qualificationA few months back, we publicly shared the sales qualification framework we use at HubSpot. We call it GPCT (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline) for short. It's a kinder, friendlier, more-prospect-focused version of the classic BANT framework: Budget, Authority, Needs and Timing.

BANT is all about figuring out whether someone has a defined need that your product fulfills and if they're the right person with the checkbook who is ready to buy. It always felt cheap and uncaring to me, not to mention incomplete. Our full internal acronym is GPCTBA/CI, which stands for Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, Consequences, and Implications.

Using GPCTBA/CI, we get much deeper into our prospect's strategy and help them rethink what's possible. It is designed to be much more helpful and thorough, so we can effectively help companies transform their marketing and sales strategy to do the same: be much more helpful to their prospects too.

In other words, we use inbound sales to help companies adopt inbound sales and marketing! 

What a Good Discovery Call Sounds Like

While it is a qualification framework, we treat these conversations more like a mutual discovery process or exploratory conversation.

As we discover our prospect's goals, challenges and plans, we offer sales and marketing advice that can help them achieve these goals, overcome these challenges and execute their growth plans more effectively and efficiently. We even market these calls as "inbound marketing assessments" because the conversations are designed to educate our prospects as we try to mutually determine whether and how we can help them.

Our goal, of course, is to figure out whether our software, training, consulting and partner services can help them directly. But rarely do companies come to us saying, "I need inbound marketing software and training." (Feel free, by the way.)

So, during this process, we are usually challenging our prospect's goals, uncovering challenges they don't even know they had, and suggesting plans that are different than their current ones. It's not easy, and like any sales role, we don't succeed every time. 

Evaluating How Well We Do on a Qualification Call

After each call, we ask our salespeople to rate how well they:

  • Uncovered critical challenges
  • Helped create well defined goals
  • Helped co-create better plans with firm timelines
  • Confirmed availability of budget
  • Determined decision-making process
  • Determined consequences of inaction
  • Identified follow-on implications of success.

We do this by having them rate each of the words in the acronym.

For example, a rating of 1 for a goal might sound like: "Needs to generate more leads for the sales team." Meanwhile, a level 3 rating for a goal might sound like: "Needs to launch new product successfully. Needs to secure 10 new sales each month at 10K each to get a 12-month break-even ROI on the $1.2M product development investment we just made. Half of these sales should come from new customers and half from existing customers." 

Data From 1,800 Opportunities

Our sales team has been rating their GPCTBA/CI for a few months. We've rated more than 1,800 opportunities that are either closed won or closed lost. You can see the chart with our data below, broken up into levels:

HubSpot

A few interesting takeaways from this data: 

  • All of the qualification criteria matter. In every case, a level 3-rated criterion is more likely to be closed won than closed lost than a level 1 criterion. In other words, level 3 criterion close into customers at a higher rate than level 1 customers do, in every criteria. 
  • Budget, Authority, and Timeline are the most important criteria. This makes sense, given that deals can't really go forward without getting budget now from the person with the authority to pay. But, it does, of course, reinforce the importance of the original BANT acronym. Because we have so many inbound leads, our product and messaging resonates well with our target market, and because we always help our customers define goals, plans and strategy as part of our onboarding process, some of our sales are relatively quick and transactional. In other words, we don't need to help them redefine their plans or quantify their goals. 
  • For some of these criteria, the close rates are significantly different at different levels. For example, a salesperson must work 4 deals with a level 1 authority rating in order to win 1 of them. But, they only need to work 2 deals to secure 1 win if the authority rating is 3. This means it makes a whole lotta sense to get the decision maker involved in the buying process. Almost all sales experts will tell you to start by calling high. This data provides some proof that to back up their advice. 

How Our Qualification Data Helps Managers Coach More Frequently 

Very few sales organizations invest enough in providing their sales team with the right amount of opportunity coaching. Experts agree that more time spent coaching helps improve performance.

Because of this, I push the HubSpot sales managers to review and coach on as many deals as possible, in order to help our salespeople with deal strategy, call preparation and follow through. But because most of our salespeople carry an active funnel of 40+ new opportunities per month, sales managers cannot possibly review every deal.

So, this framework gives our sales managers the ability to sit down with their reps just once or twice per week to review quite a few opportunities efficiently.

Having a consistent framework for evaluating the closeability of a deal allows our managers to quickly help their salespeople come up with strategies to move the deal forward or make the decision to move it out of the funnel. Because we capture this information in a structured way, our sales managers can review deals on their own in the evening by reviewing the salesperson's notes.

Sales managers can also join calls in the middle of the sales process and be much more informed participants and coaches after they've reviewed the GPCTBA/CI notes and ratings. 

Sales Qualification Improves Forecasting Accuracy

HubSpot wants to be a public company someday. Improving our forecast accuracy is a key initiative as part of that goal. We have a roughly 45 day sales cycle, but our quota cycles are monthly. A year ago, most teams could not even predict 30 days out.

Using GPCTBA/CI data, and more rigor around our opportunity coaching, we've been able to improve our forecasting accuracy quite significantly and, in turn, our ability to start predicting 60 days out. 

As the data above shows, it's clear that better qualification leads to better close rates -- and if you're not making your quota, it's probably because your qualification process sucks. When it's done as a service to the prospect using GPCTBA/CI, it also improves the experience.

Our experience at HubSpot also shows that it helps us bolster our coaching effectiveness as well as forecast accuracy. We'll soon start to show the correlation between GPCTBA/CI ratings on customer success too.

What are you doing in your business to improve the ability of your sales team to improve their qualification skills? How is that impacting the health of your business?

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Originally published Nov 5, 2013 10:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Sales Qualification