What is the Qualification Step in Sales?

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In sales, the qualification step is about gathering information that will help you craft a solution to a specific problem or question that an organization may have. This step is oftentimes regarded as the foundation of any proposal or job. You can’t pitch a perfect idea or do a great job if you’re lacking important information.

Qualification allows you to move beyond feature functionality and how a product would benefit a business and instead look at the consumers--what issues are they having, and what’s important to them, and why is it important? 

How do I Make the Qualification Step Effective? 

Be Conversational

The qualification step is a way to help you get to know your client and what they’re looking for. Qualification doesn’t necessarily have to be formal.

Talking to your clients in a more natural manner will help you build a better understanding of what they need. It also allows you to gear your next steps around their evaluation style and decision-making processes. 

Set the Right Intentions 

It’s important to begin with the right intentions. The intention to learn about your client and determine if you’re able to make a positive impact, or if you should go your separate ways. 

Ask the Right Questions

There are a few key ideas you need to learn during the qualification step that you can get by asking point-blank questions. 

  • What are you working on?
  • What is getting in the way of success?
  • What are you struggling with?
  • What issue are you trying to address?
  • Why is it important to solve these things?
  • What happens if you don’t?
  • Who else cares about this?
  • Why do they care?
  • How are you solving (or have you attempted to solve) the problem today?

Find out, on the client’s terms, what isn’t working and what they think could be improved upon. What aspect are they trying to improve upon?

Then, find out who needs to be involved in discussions about the solution to their issue. This could be one person, or a team of people.

Finally, ask how they evaluate things. Learn how they view success, how they operate, and how they make assessments within their company.

Within the evaluation discussion, it’s vital also that you talk about their budget process so you don’t impact their forecast incorrectly. Learning these things will help you gear your solutions toward their needs.

What are the Risks of an Ineffective Qualification Step?

The most obvious risk of a failed or ineffective qualification step is losing the prospect.

If you forget to ask questions about the three key ideas we talked about earlier, the issue, solution involvement, and evaluation, you run the risk of missing out on a lot of vital information.

You may forget to include someone in solution discussions, or mix up when a budget is going to be made available. Both of which could cause you to lose them as clients.

You also risk missing a key aspect of the company or failing to highlight what could have been a very helpful element in the solution to their problem. In this case, not only is your client not receiving your best work, but you also deflate the value of your services. 

In Conclusion

The qualification step helps you build the foundation you need to work effectively with your clients. It allows you to get to know them, their issues, and how they operate. It’s a vital sales step, and you risk a lot if you aren’t effective in this step.

Moving through the process too quickly could lead you to improperly qualify an opportunity, and put your client in a box. It’s important that you effectively move through the qualification step to be as constructive as you can be with your clients.

An effective step will leave you with a clear understanding of who your client is, and a trusting relationship that will allow you to be successful. 

Qualification is not about qualifying people out. It’s about understanding the problem from the perspective of your client – and then determining if/how you can help (Spoiler alert – if you can help – you may be ready to move to “Fit”)

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