“We’ll let you know when we’re ready.”
Have you ever had a prospect feed you some version of this line? “Why don’t you give me a call in two weeks? I should have an answer for your then.” We know how that usually goes; these prospects string you along, using your hope for a sale as motivation.
It extends your sales cycles.
Are these prospects serious? Are they interested or not? Can CRM software shorten your sales cycles? Today, we’ll look at the strategies and tactics you can use to do just that.
What’s the most important part of the sales process?
There’s lots of debate about this.
Some pundits state that it’s all about getting to know your customers. Others state that the fact-finding portion is the most significant part of the sales process. Others say that it’s all about listening, that you need to focus on listening to the customer.
See the theme we’re working with?
These things are helpful – fact-finding and getting to know your customers – these are a given. But they’re not the most important part of the sales process.
This sounds crazy.
But there are plenty of industries where salespeople sell to customers without these ingredients; door-to-door sales, impulse sales, donation requests, and certain forms of consultative selling require salespeople to diagnose and solve the problem in real-time.
So what is the most important part then?
You’ll need to identify whether the prospect you’re speaking to is willing and able to buy.
Why disqualification is an essential part of your sales cycle
Remember my previous post?
The one where I discussed the 3% Rule?
The 3% Rule states that only 3% of your prospects are ready to buy at any given moment. What about the rest?
- 7% plan on making a change
- 30% have a need, but they’re not ready to buy
- 30% don’t have a need
- 30% will never buy from your company (even if they have a need)
This means 97% of the prospects you talk to are not ready to buy. If this model is correct, There’s a 97% chance your salespeople will end up talking to the wrong people; to complicate things further, management seems to treat leads as if they’re each gold coins.
Today’s unqualified prospect is tomorrow’s sale. Discarding good leads is a terrible idea – especially if they’re willing to continue the conversation.
But disqualification is the most important part.
Now let’s take a look at the sales process your workflow needs to address.
- Rapport building
- Prospect nurturing
- Make your pitch
- Defuse objections
Disqualification is the only part of the process that helps you to determine (a.) who you’re dealing with, (b.) whether they have money to spend, and (c.) whether they’re willing to give you their money.
Why disqualification is the key to consistently shorter sales cycles
There are hundreds of strategies and tactics you can use to shorten your sales cycles. You can (and should) focus on automation, your most profitable prospecting channels, use social proof, etc. All of these tactics can and should be used.
But the biggest gains will come from disqualification.
Because the focus on disqualification means you’ll spend the majority of your time focused on prospects, who are able and willing to buy. Each of the steps mentioned above is essential, but disqualification is the most important. All of the other steps in the sales process depend on this.
When you ignore or skimp on the disqualification process, the entire sales process falls apart.
Here’s what I mean.
- Prospecting: You can’t generate revenue if your leads don’t lead to a sale. Marketing depts. should produce sales-ready leads, customers who are willing and able to buy. But let’s be honest, that’s usually not what happens. Instead, you’re more likely to receive whatever marketing was able to generate, whether they’re qualified or not.
- Rapport building: You’re building relationships with people who either can’t or won’t buy from you. Your sales team will waste more time on unqualified prospects, while the ones with money will take their business elsewhere.
- Prospect nurturing: At best, you’re wasting time educating and following up with the wrong prospects. At worst, you’re irritating people who won’t spend money with you and may very well flag your organization as a spammer.
- Make your pitch: When you finally make your pitch, it’s rejected; when you sell to the wrong people, this is inevitable. Most of these prospects never had the intention or the money to commit to your product or service. They were never going to buy; the decision to pitch these bad prospects as actually cost you money.
- Defuse objections: This is a frustrating game of wack-a-mole. Your prospect always has a comeback, another reason why they can’t commit to the sale. Sales bulldogs teach their teams to push through these objections, leading to higher refund rates, negative reviews, and customer attrition rates.
- Close: The vast majority of unqualified prospects won’t buy. They don’t have the willingness or the ability to buy. If, by some miracle, they’re convinced to buy, the risk of buyer’s remorse is extremely high.
See what I mean?
All of these steps in the sales process are essential, but all of them fail when disqualification is ignored.
How CRM software helps you disqualify great prospects
Why would you want to disqualify great prospects?
Great prospects aren’t interested in becoming great customers. Great prospects are knowledge vampires, seemingly eager people who just need a little bit of your help to get over the sales finish line. They ghost you, take up lots of your time without committing, or they’re evasive, cagey, and difficult.
- Ask them for a budget range, and they fight you.
- Push for a time to review the proposal they’ve requested, and they resist you.
- Attempt to close the sale, and they protest.
CRM software helps you shorten your sales cycles by making the disqualification process systematic.
- Defines “qualified prospect” in clear, objective, and precise terms
- Reminds salespeople to ask qualifying questions relevant to the client’s business
- Tells salespeople when to ask qualifying questions
- Outlines how to disqualify a prospect if it’s determined that they’re not a fit
Let’s break these down.
1. Defines “qualified prospect” in clear, objective, and precise terms
Your sales manager should define a qualified prospect in clear, objective, and precise terms. This means you’ll need to qualify these ideal prospects at three levels.
- Company: Does this prospect fit your company’s vision of an “ideal prospect?” Think about the prospect from the standpoint of demographics, psychographics, ethnographics, and firmographics. Thi
- Opportunity: Does your prospect want your solution? Do they have desires, goals, fears, frustrations, and problems you can solve? Does it make dollars and cents for them to purchase your product or service?
- Decisionmaker: Is your point-of-contact an influencer or decision-maker? Can they sign on the dotted line? If they’re not the person in charge of purchasing, can they get the deal done?
Managers, take the time to define this carefully.
Ask your decision-makers and stakeholders about it if you’re unsure. Reach out to marketing; talk with accounting so you can identify your best customers.
What does this look like?
Let’s say you’re a SaaS provider of tax compliance software.
Your ideal prospect:
- Is a medium-sized, national ecommerce brand in the outdoor, sports, or gaming industry
- With a budget of $12,250 per mo. – $55,375 per mo.
- In need of international compliance management services and support
- They’re unsure of their international, national, regional, and local sales tax obligations
- And they’re a stakeholder with decision-making authority (C-suite point-of-contact, purchaser, director, or manager, etc.)
See what I mean?
These are objective standards your salespeople can use to vet prospects – either they have an issue with tax compliance, or they don’t.
2. Reminds salespeople to ask qualifying questions relevant to the client’s business
“Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question — you have to want to know — in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.”
Sophisticated salespeople understand this intimately. They know that questions control the direction and flow of the conversation. They don’t waste their time telling prospects about their awards or best-of-breed products. They ask prospects questions about their desires, goals, fears, frustrations, expectations, etc.
Here’s why this matters.
These questions can be used to disqualify prospects – or move them through the sales process. You’ll need several types of questions.
- Timeframe: When do you plan to make a decision on this?
- Investment: In round numbers, what’s your budget for this?
- Trust: What does the ideal company or provider look like to you?
- Objections: What would you consider to be a dealbreaker?
- Risk: What scares you the most about buying [solution]? What’s the worst-case scenario look like?
- Social proof: What are you looking for from this [solution]? Our customers stated that we’re the _______ in our industry. Is that important to you?
- Interest: When would you like to go over the proposal together? Let’s say everything about this deal is perfect; what would your next steps be?
- Expectations: What do you expect this [solution] to do for you specifically? In an ideal world, this [solution] solves _______ for you.
Let’s say you’re using CRM software.
How would you go about using these questions? Well, there’s a variety of methods you can use. You can add them as email templates in your CRM tool.
Using CRM software like Pipeline, you can create default to-do templates for each deal in progress. These to-dos would tell your salespeople when it’s time to ask these questions.
You can upload a document with your disqualification questions that salespeople can use to qualify or disqualify your prospects as they come in. If they’re disqualified, they can be kicked back to sales, along with the evidence or documentation collected by the salesperson. If they’re qualified, they continue through the sales process, moving forward to close.
Remember the focus?
You want your salespeople to spend 80% of their time closing deals with the 3% of prospects who are ready to buy. You’ll want to spend 20% of your time nurturing your warm prospects, the 7% who plan on making a change, and the 30% who have a need but aren’t ready to buy.
What does this mean for the 37%?
You need an automated or semi-automated lead nurturing method. These could be email templates you’ve queued up in your CRM system, or a list of names you kick back to marketing for them to warm up.
Disqualification: The most important part of the sales process
Can CRM software shorten your sales cycles?
It can and will, but you’ll need to focus on the most important part of the process to achieve significant gains.
Some experts believe it’s all about getting to know your customers. Others suggest that the fact-finding portion is the most important part of the sales cycle. A few say that it’s all about listening, that you need to focus on listening to the customer.
These steps are helpful – fact-finding and getting to know your customers are great for small incremental decreases in your sales cycle. But they’re not the most important part; to achieve significant gains, you’ll want to focus on the right prospects.
These are 3%ers in your funnel who are willing and able to buy.
Do this, and you’ll find your salespeople to spend 80% of their time closing deals with the prospects who are ready to make a purchase now, with no busywork or micromanaging required.