The Don Quixote Approach to Opportunity Assessment
Emerging salespeople typically believe that all business is good business, and to an extent, this is true. If you are trying to make a name for yourself, and are being put under pressure by your sales manager to get “runs on the board” while trying to earn the respect of the more experienced and successful members of the team, it is difficult to walk away from any opportunity if you believe you have the remotest chance of winning it.
However, it is essential to fully understand both the value and importance of rigorous objective qualification, not just at the front end, but right through the sales cycle. Qualification is a process, not a single event. Salespeople should be fully skilled in asking a small number of basic questions regarding issues such as precise requirements, time scales, budget and competition before they reveal their price and delivery.
External salespeople have the opportunity to meet with prospective customers, and it is far easier to extract information face to face than it is via the telephone. Still, it is vital that some initial answers are elicited prior to the first exploratory meeting to ensure the meeting will be worthwhile to both parties. With sales costs spiraling upwards and sales time becoming limited, considerable prudence is required on the part of the salesperson.
During the first meeting, a considerable amount of detail can, and should, be uncovered. For example, background and history of the company, the key individuals, the composition of the DMU (Decision Making Unit) if there is one, time scales, budget, competition, current suppliers and buying criteria can be discussed. Only through rigorous questioning will the salesperson be able to answer the following questions when they get back to the office: Is there a requirement/need that my company can satisfy? Is it winnable? Do I want it?