Just as qualifying customers and prospects is a critical step in the selling process, it is also a necessary component of prudent sales management.
Many believe that sales management consists of leadership, managerial skills, and a higher level of selling – that is, sales managers must often sell to the sales force. [see related article].
And in so doing, so too must they continually qualify members of the sales force, who, in these instances, take on the role of “internal” customers.
To point out a few parallels, consider that successful sales people qualify their customers and prospects during the early stages of the selling process. While qualification can cover a wide range of issues, key areas involve:
- Confirming interest, motivation and urgency levels, and that the overall needs are real
- Determining if the buyer is giving us serious consideration
- Identifying priorities or special needs, such as quick delivery or modified payment terms, that can often make or break the sale
- Confirming that each customer or prospect has the budget and wherewithal to acquire the products or services
- Confirming the basis on which decisions will be made and how the evaluation process will work. This includes identifying decision makers as well as influencers
- Assessing each buyer’s knowledge level with respect to product and service offerings and his or her ability to properly evaluate proposed solutions
Now let’s look at the similarities that exist in a sales management scenario.
Prior to setting sales strategies or assessing a sales person’s portfolio of pending business, a sales manager must qualify the overall situation. The first step will involve a discussion on how thoroughly the sales person has qualified his or her customers / prospects.
Next, regardless of a sales person’s tenure, he or she must be motivated; and self-motivation can only go so far. The wise sales manager always checks motivation levels, and is ready to provide the necessary incentive or inspiration. Of course people’s attitudes and motivational needs fluctuate on a regular basis; so as part of the ongoing qualification process, sales managers must also determine the best motivational strategy for each situation.
And speaking of attitude, does each sales person have confidence in our solution? Does he or she have the proper sense of urgency?
Do we have everyone’s buy-in on company policies and procedures? The company mission?
It’s also important for sales managers to confirm the actual steps that have been taken to facilitate the sales process. Have our strategies been properly implemented?
Similarly, sales managers must continually assess the team’s knowledge level. Do we have the skills to carry out sales plans? Are selling skills consistently applied? Do we need additional product or systems training? Are we focused on benefits and value or do our presentations simply tout features and price?
“Many in sales management think that they have been called to command. In reality, they have really been called to a higher level of sales,” says author and founder of makingthenumbers.com Jack Falvey.
So in summary, not only must we know how to qualify our customers and prospects, but also our sales team!