Salespeople need to carefully qualify prospects to ensure they’re spending their valuable time on the most viable and profitable deals. Knowing when to disqualify is essential to being successful in sales. However, I think about disqualification a bit differently than most sellers.

Many companies use BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) as their qualification process. If the prospect is determined to have the proper budget, the right level of influence, a pressing need, and an urge to buy now instead of later, salespeople will classify the lead as “qualified.”

But what if the salesperson can’t identify a clear need, or locate the decision maker? Does this mean they should therefore disqualify the prospect? Not in my opinion. To me, these are problems with the rep, not the potential account.

Remember that disqualification isn’t a bar for you -- it’s a bar for the customer. It’s only when the customer demonstrates very specific behaviors that a salesperson should actively disqualify. If the issue is not being able to determine need or find the decision maker, the rep simply needs to do more research.

In addition, it’s important to note the difference between disqualifying a certain contact at a company and disqualifying the company itself. While a given contact might not be worth pursuing due to an inadequate level of authority, this doesn’t mean the company should be disqualified. Find another person to deliver your pitch to before you cross the opportunity off your list.

That said, there are three circumstances in which a salesperson should disqualify a prospect right away. If any of these red flags surface during your conversation, you’d be wise to move onto the next lead.

1) When you’re competing with more than two vendors.

Competitive situations are expected in sales. However, overly competitive situations generally aren’t worth the effort.

For example, if your company is competing against another provider, the odds of you winning the business are 50%. Pretty good. If one more provider is added to the mix, your chance of signing the client becomes 33%. Not great, but it’s something you can work with. However, once you get beyond three or more vendors competing for a sale, the odds of winning decrease so drastically that it doesn’t make sense to pursue it.

While it seems unwise to turn down any sort of interest, it works out in the long run. If more than three vendors are being evaluated, the buying process is probably in a very early stage. The decision maker has likely delegated the initial research to a direct report who won’t be involved in the final choice.

If you deny a prospect’s request for an initial proposal, the person doing the research will report the results back to their manager without your quote included. And if your company was a serious contender, the manager will tell the researcher to go back to your company and ask again. If you receive a second request, you will know the prospect is truly interested, and you aren’t wasting your time by getting involved.

So don’t worry about disqualifying prospects who are considering upwards of three vendors. If they truly want to do business with you, they’ll let you know if you just hang tight.

2) When the prospect doesn’t have a strong appetite for change.

Somewhere in the qualification process, I always make a point to ask about the prospect’s appetite for change. Note that I don’t ask, “How likely are you to change with the help of my company?” At this point, I’m not interested in whether they want to buy from me -- I just want to know how motivated they are to buy from someone.

Prospects will usually try to be as non-committal as possible, so don’t be surprised if you hear answers like “We’re somewhat motivated to change” or “Kind of.” To avoid this problem, I ask buyers to rank how devoted they are to making a change on a scale from one to four. An even number of choices eliminates the possibility that they’ll choose the middle option.

Prospects who respond with “one” or “two” should be disqualified immediately. Prospects who respond with “three” or “four” should be pursued all the more diligently!

3) When there’s a roadblock on the calendar.

B2B buyers have priorities and responsibilities totally independent of any buying decision they might be involved in. Yet salespeople often ignore this fact, and become frustrated when a prospect’s budget meeting or quarter-end review derails the sales process.

During qualification, reps should make sure to ask about the most important event coming up on the contact’s calendar. If the rep cannot forge a direct connection between their product or service and the resources the contact needs to successfully manage their meeting, the rep should put the relationship on ice until the critical date has passed.

Instead of disqualifying forever, this is more of a temporary disqualification. Save yourself the frustration when your contact inevitably falls off the map, and reengage when their plate isn’t so full.

Want to learn more of my proven techniques? Join me on April 6th in San Francisco for my Why You? Why You Now?™ Prospecting and Your SalesMBA™ Management ½ day workshops.

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Originally published Apr 1, 2015 9:24:32 AM, updated December 31 2016


Sales Strategy