B2B Sales Qualification is a Two-Way Street

B2B Sales Qualification is a Two-Way Street

By John McTigueSep 9 /2013

b2b sales from the buyers perspectiveB2B sales professionals are taught at an early stage in their careers that qualification is the key to success. Without fully qualifying your leads, you will have difficulty throughout the sales process, and, even worse, you may be setting up your company for failure. What's commonly overlooked is the buyer's perspective. Are we a good fit for them? Most sales reps think about whether or not a lead can become a customer, but they fail to address the future of the relationship. In other words, sales qualification is really a two-way street, and it's our responsibility to make sure the road is clear in both directions.

Seller's Perspective

I won't dwell on all of the established (and recently updated) thinking on qualifying sales leads. Basically, you have the old-school thinking (BANT) and the new-school thinking (GPCTBA/C&I). Pete Caputa from HubSpot recently wrote an excellent post explaining the differences between these versions of sales qualification doctrine.

BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing)

This is the old standard we've all used for many years in which we evaluate the "fit" and "readiness" of a prospect for an imminent sale. We are trying to find out if the prospect is a decision maker, has enough money and is serious about a purchase in the near future. This is a classic one-way street. It's all about us selling to them, and the heck with whether or not we are actually the right solution for their needs.

GPCTBA/C&I (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, Consequences and Implications)

The new school doctrine turns the equation around and asks the question, "What do you actually want and need, and what if you don't succeed?" Now we're interviewing the buyer and assessing his current status, desires and the roadblocks to success. The decision for us boils down to whether or not we can help him get to the goal line in a manner that best fits his parameters (and ours) including budget, resources, timing and a whole host of possible complications. The decision for him boils down to how well we've framed the challenges and addressed them, as well as how comfortable he feels working with us.

This new-school approach goes a lot further toward aligning the interests of both buyer and seller, but from whose point of view?

Buyer's Perspective

The other side of the street is what's missing. The buyer's perspective. It's true that with GPCTBA/C&I we have (hopefully) asked the right questions that establish, from our point of view, whether or not there's a good fit between our solutions and their problems. Unfortunately that approach alone does not guarantee customer happiness once the deal is done. Of course, we still need to deliver the goods and provide great customer service, but have we really captured the interests of the buyer in the sales process? If I put my customer hat on, I'm concerned with:

  • Value - Am I going to get the best value out of your products or services compared to the alternatives?
  • Trust - Can I trust you to be a good partner going forward and treat me as I deserve to be treated?
  • Relationship - Are we going to get along well, or are we always going to be fighting over expectations and deliverables?
  • Flexibility - How well will we deal with change (both ours and yours)?
  • Balance - Can we strike a good balance between the interests of your company and mine (and does that even matter to me)?

I can think of a dozen more questions a savvy buyer should ask before she embarks on the journey with a seller. But does she do so during the sales process? Not very often in my experience. Buyers are usually sizing you up with more tangible criteria, like budget, deliverables, timing and manpower. They usually do address value when they compare you to your competitors, but do they evaluate the right criteria? Not so much. Price is usually No. 1, and that's not often a good indicator of the probability of success.

So Who's Responsible for the Buyer's Side of the Street?

I say we are, the Sales Community. It's in our interest to make sure the customer is going to be happy BEFORE we sell them anything, and that includes two-way qualification. The key questions to ask ourselves and our buyers are:

  • Are we really a good fit and value for you?
  • What's it going to be like working with you?
  • What kind of burdens are we placing on both parties to the deal, and how will we manage those burdens?
  • Are we prepared to be flexible in our thinking, planning and deliverables?
  • What does success really look like? Are we limiting ourselves in our thinking about goals?

If both parties are comfortable with the answers to these questions, as well as the traditional GPCTBA/C&I questions, then we both stand to win.

Are your customers stakeholders in your sales process?

Photo credit: quinn.anya

john mctigue blog photoWith over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. Connect with John via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.

The Buyer's Journey
The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn and Twitter.