Dave Kurlan is a top-rated keynote speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and expert on all things sales and selling.

qualifiedLast week, I posted this article in reference to an Inc. Magazine article that was way off base about Consultative Selling.  It led to a significant number of comments with one of them being this question:

“Dave, in your opinion, with all the training that is available and has been delivered to sales people over the years, how come sales people still fail at executing an effective approach to qualifying a prospect. Forget what we want to call the approach. Just basic fundamentals like asking questions. This is known throughout the selling universe but sales people still suck at this. How come?”

Great question.  Here are my top 6 reasons why:

1. Hidden weaknesses get in the way. The top 7 that impact qualifying are:

  • Need for Approval (making friends is more important than closing business),
  • Too Trusting (they believe the stalls and put-offs),
  • Rejection (they won’t ask questions that could cause a prospect to reject them),
  • Discomfort Talking Money (they won’t have the financial conversation that goes along with thorough qualifying),
  • Lack of Commitment (they won’t do what it takes, including asking questions that make them uncomfortable)
  • Non-Supportive Buy Cycle (the way that salespeople buy things doesn’t support ideal sales outcomes)
  • Tendency to Get Emotional (I was so excited to close the business so I got right to the point)
2. Their sales managers are not holding them accountable for qualifying. There isn’t much of a reason for them to do anything when nobody is encouraging and/or forcing them do.

3. Their lack of adherance to a formal, structured, sales process allows them to sell by the seat of their pants, and skip directly to a presentation, demo, proposal or quote. That makes qualification an afterthought.

4. If they attempt to qualify, they might learn that the opportunity is not qualified. Oh no – they’ll have to find another opportunity to work on!

5. They don’t have to qualify because they already know, by reputation, without having to ask, that the opportunity is perfect. Yeah, right.

6. They aren’t selling consultatively and as a result, aren’t uncovering the compelling reasons for a prospect to spend money.  That creates the urgency for a prospect to take action at which point they’ll almost self-qualify.  If they are selling transactionally, prospects typically won’t cooperate at the qualification stage because, well, why should they?

Of course there are more, like:

  • Ignorance – Qualify?  What’s that?
  • Skills and Tactics – How am I supposed to know how their decision-making process will work?
  • Stupidity – Why do I need to speak with the decision-maker?
  • Naïveté – The buyer told me that I’ll be getting the business!
Lack of qualification is viral and chronic and the only way to stop it is to do the following:

  • Evaluate the Sales Force – You must know which weaknesses are at the heart of it and you must be able to identify the skill gaps.  This is not a DIY project!
  • Have a customized, formal, structured sales process developed.
  • Train the sales managers to coach the appropriate way.
  • Provide sales training to overcome weaknesses and solve the skill gap.
  • Make sure the sales training is truly Consultative Selling – no short cuts.
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