What if I told you that your salespeople don’t need more prospects—that, in fact, they’d be better off with fewer? A prospect who is engaged by your salesperson, but who never closes, on average uses up 60% more time than the prospect who closes. In other words, your sales team’s productivity can be sucked dry by a too-large field of prospects.
An effective qualification process is the antidote to this problem. Yet the majority of sales organizations simply don’t have one or, at least, not one that is clearly defined. As a result, they suffer from poor pipeline visibility, wasted time, and declining effectiveness. Let’s take a look at the five big qualification problems most organizations fall prey to.
Most organizations have at least some idea of what industries, sizes, and types of company they’re after. Few, however, truly understand the defining characteristics of a prospect who is most likely to close. These characteristics might include, for instance:
Most organizations simply have no idea which of these, if any, impact the likelihood of a successful sale, nor do they have any means of discovering that information.
In most organizations, salespeople are indirectly rewarded for inflating their pipeline. Whether it’s intentional or not, salespeople tend to feel that they are evaluated at least in part based on how many prospects they put into the sales pipeline.
These incentives encourage a “flabby” pipeline, as Bob Apollo puts it.
In addition to incentives to fill the pipeline, in traditional sales organizations salespeople are likewise incented to stay busy. The attitude is that if they’re not “working the pipeline,” they’re not working. As a result, salespeople often launch into the sales process with a prospect they know is not quite a good fit, but they hope might close anyway. For instance, a salesperson may enter a project plan into the sales process even though he/she knows they haven’t reached the right decision makers yet and that their current contact is not qualified to move the project forward. In another case, a prospect may be too small to be truly qualified, but the salesperson justifies entering into the process because the prospect expects to grow.
These prospects might occasionally lead to a sale, but entering them into the sales process before they’re ready wastes time the salesperson could use to find more qualified prospects.
Companies who invest in inbound marketing sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that this relieves the sales team of having to prospect. Unfortunately, the type of leads that inbound attracts aren't always of the right quality. A big mistake is placing all of these "marketing qualified leads" directly into the pipeline, without proper qualification. One problem with inbound marketing is that the people who read the content generated for inbound marketing are most often the “researchers” in the organization—in other words, the tire-kickers. Salespeople who run with these leads exclusively, without doing proper qualification and research first, wil waste a lot of time compared to those who engage in more rigid qualification and active prospecting.
Traditionally, CRM is the tool most often used by sales teams to track leads and prospects. CRMs, however, dumps everyone into one big pile, with only rudimentary tools for sorting qualified prospects from not-yet-qualified prospects from complete duds.
Prospecting tools, such as Salesloft and Outreach, attempt to resolve this problem by providing an entirely different “pile” for prospects. However, these solutions don’t address the issue of ensuring that only qualified prospects get passed into the main sales process.
Membrain, however, provides separate workflows for prospecting, along with built-in controls to ensure only those who meet the organization’s definition of “qualified” make it into the sales process. Analytics are built in to allow sales leaders to understand which qualifying criteria genuinely impact close rates, and then to make adjustments to the qualifying process and definition to ensure salespeople spend their time only with the best prospects.
Of course, there’s more to an effective qualification process than just having the right tools. Stay tuned for an upcoming article on creating a robust qualification process.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn