A qualification meeting is the key to creating a real business opportunity. Most of the time, it’s the very first meeting. This business meeting lets you discover all necessary information to know whether a prospect can become a client.
At the end of a qualification meeting/s, you should know whether there is a business opportunity or not. If you manage to employ our methodology in your team’s sales-habit, you’ll finally eliminate those “maybe” meetings occupying their pipeline for months and messing up your sales forecast.
We’re sure you want to keep the sales pipelines clear and transparent, so keep reading.
No two meetings are the same. Each of your sales representatives probably has his/her signature selling style, and it works the best for them. However, there’s a proven structure towards knowing whether there’s an opportunity without being the annoying salesperson who talks too much or asks too many questions.
The meeting should take roughly 45 minutes, 1 hour tops!
Rapport: 5 - 15 minutes
Introduction: 5 - 10 minutes
Need Discovery: 20 - 30 minutes
Solution Presentation: 10 - 20 minutes
Business and Next Steps: 10 - 15 minutes
There’s a lot on every sales representative’s plate, so they need to work with time wisely. Each section of a qualification meeting has its structure and a goal, so let’s look at them individually.
Sales representatives know to sell themself. They’ll make their achievements and skills sound great. It can be true or not. That’s the reason sales representatives are so often tested during the interviewing process.
It’s time-consuming, so before you schedule an assessment center, ask as many behavioral questions as possible to eliminate the non-fits on the first meeting.
You’ll probably know this part by other terms, such as “ice-break” or “small talk”. While small talk is usually very shallow, and we use it to avoid awkward silence, ice break and rapport allow us to connect.
Rapport starts with the very first interaction with the potential customer. It’s all about each sales representative’s style, and it will be strongly influenced by who they talk to. However, the common thing is to focus on a quick understanding of the natural communication style of the prospect and align with it.
It’s good to work with people’s archetypes. It’s not worth pushing if the opposite side tries to cut the rapport in the middle and go directly to the business. Quite often, this is the case of busy middle management. Conversely, some want to get to know the sales representatives properly and chat with them for a good 30 minutes. These can be, for example, CEOs of SME companies - which is actually okay because they can do the rest of the meeting plan, or even pre-close, in the remaining 30 minutes.
Any person your sales team meets shouldn’t be pushed the wrong approach as they won’t manage to build the rapport and will only make the rest of the meeting harder for themself.
make your team prepare for rapport, so they don’t end up talking about the weather
tell them to check the person’s LinkedIn profile and find at least one interesting point
instruct them to check the internet for any prospect’s company updates, milestones, etc. to talk about
make sure they include everyone who’s on the meeting into discussions (finding out who they are and what their responsibilities are, is essential)
The goal of Rapport: Make a good impression, connect with others and get permission to move to the main topic.
The transition from Rapport to Introduction - sales representatives should ask permission:“Great chat. I could go on for ages. However, is it OK if we move to the ABC?”
The introduction is a chance to tell people what you do. They’re eager to know. The usual question after the rapport is “So what is that you have for us?”, or also silence.
It’s good to watch out for the 2 most common mistakes:
the sales representative involves too much marketing information (no one wants to hear you’ve been on the market for 12 years already, in 20 locations, with 2.000 employees)
the sales representative skip to PowerPoint or Demo presentation immediately
After all, this is a qualification meeting, so it’s about the sales representatives finding information mostly, rather than providing them context-less.
At this point, giving a presentation could feel like going through an impersonalized catalog. Your product has many features solving many needs and pains, so it’s advisable to wait after the sales representative knows what the prospect is looking for.
Instead, in the introduction section, they should do this:
Set up the topic - “This meeting is about ABC in your company.”
Say (or show on a picture) what your product solves in very few sentences - “My Company’s specialization is onboarding. The particular focus is on the preboarding phase that inevitably happens with every new hire. It helps the HR department engage and adapt new employees smoothly.
Set and confirm the meeting plan - “First, I’d like to see how you handle onboarding now and what are your challenges and hot topics. Then, I will show you our product, and we’ll see whether there’s a match. Is there anything else you’d like to incorporate?”
Set timing - Check how much time you have left. “Can we discuss this in the remaining 45 minutes?”
The goal of Introduction: Set up the topic, agree on the agenda and timing, tell participants about the business.
The transition from Introduction to Need Discovery - ask a general open-ended question about the matter you’re solving:“Ok, so how to handle onboarding now?” “What made you meet up with me today?” (Sales representatives do not leave this part until they collect expectations from everyone!)
Here, the sales representative needs to go deep into the needs and what they mean for the prospect’s company. If there are more needs, they’ll need to prioritize them together with the prospect. A great way to do so is to summarize the need in their own words and ask for confirmation.
Sole discussions about the product and the prospect’s needs aren’t enough. The sales representative needs more information, such as whether they can afford your product, when they can implement it, or who else should be involved - has a decision power, etc., to know that this is a customer worth investing time into.
Here we’re getting to the well-known “opportunity qualification”, and it’s also where we finally exploit qualification methodologies. They help us qualify and also disqualify prospects. Don’t get scared when your team disqualifies a lot - the best salespeople are not those who have the most opportunities but rather those with the highest conversion rates (aka disqualifies a lot).
Methodologies like BANT(C), CHAMP, MEDDIC, etc., help eliminate gut feelings and false optimism from the sales pipeline. We chose BANT(C) to be the one for us.
What BANT stands for and how to use it:
The sales representative needs to find out whether their prospects already have the money to buy a solution or whether they’ll need to get it from their company. They’ll need to test the prospect’s financial expectations and hope the prospect won’t want to buy a Lamborghini for the price of a minivan.
Questions to ask:
“Has money been already allocated to buying a solution?”
“How do you usually request money allocation in your company?”
“Do you have any range of the expected investment in the solution?”
Approximately 6 stakeholders are involved in the buying process in corporations. Therefore, the sales representative needs to know the role of their “champion” - the person they talk to and anyone else who should be involved. Then, they’ll need to find their priorities, motivations, and relationships with others.
Questions to ask:
“Who has to be involved in the buying process?”
“How do you usually buy solutions like ours?”
“What is important to the CXO?”
Companies talk to sales representatives because they have a problem to solve. Not just to see what’s out there on the market. The goal of each sales representative is not just to discover their need but also to understand the whole perspective.
They have to discover where the push to get a new solution comes from. Somebody had to make the strategic decision and authorized the champion to deal with it. Why did the person want it? They need to find out why the HR system’s change is happening and its overall impact on the business.
Questions to ask:
“What problems are you trying to solve?”
“How does your current process look?”
“Where do you usually encounter obstacles?”
“Why are you solving this problem right now?”
Your sales representative always needs to know how big a priority your solution is and whether other players are involved.
There also might be other topics on the prospect’s table that could prolong the entire process. They should not be afraid to ask about their plans and timeline.
Questions to ask:
“When do you want to have this solved?”
“How big a priority is this for you?”
“Are you dealing with any other important topics at the moment?”
Rarely you’ll be the only potential provider of a solution the prospect talks to. Asking who they’re in touch with will be very beneficial because knowing the competition involved will help you differentiate your services.
Questions to ask:
“Are you also considering other providers?”
“Compared to other providers, how do you rank our solution?”
“Based on what criteria will you select the provider?”
BANT(C) is easier than it seems!
And that’s about it! It needs some practice but trust us; it’s not less complicated than it might appear. Don’t let your sales team leave first meetings with just a pleasant discussion about your solution. Teach them they need to analyze what’s happening within the organization, always find out who will pay for the solution and when, and who is the competition.
BANT(C) or just BANT is a very well-known methodology. We advise you to introduce it, do training and mockups, print it out, and make it office decor. After introducing any qualification methodology in your company, 1:1 sales review meetings with your team will take a different direction, and finally, it’ll be very easy for you and also them to determine whether there is or isn’t an opportunity. Enough of “maybes” in your pipeline messing up the sales forecast.
The goal of Need Discovery: discover the needs, priorities, forces behind this meeting happening
The transition from Need Discovery to Solution Presentation - inform about moving on:“I think I have interviewed you enough. Thank you for the great insight into your business. Let’s move to the solution; I’ll show you how we can solve your challenges.”
The sales representatives should take the prioritized need they discovered and base their presentation on it. It is always better to present the product by showing how it works (demo), but sometimes it's necessary to launch a presentation to explain the key concepts.
The sales representatives need to focus on not falling into a generic presentation mode (the “catalog” mode). They’ve just spent a lot of time questioning the prospect, so they should use the answers as an advantage now. It’s essential to pay special attention to the priorities and don’t mind if they don't show everything the solution offers. If the prospect cares about preboarding, the representatives shouldn’t go through how to handle employee vacations.
They must keep getting back to the priority and let the customer give them feedback, so it’s not just a monologue.
Focus is on benefits, not features. Ideally, they follow the FAB scheme.
If they have a technical pre-sales colleague with them to present the demo, they need to understand they’re the ones controlling the pace. Is the demo going too fast? They ask the prospect whether they’re following and adjust the pace if needed.
If the pre-sales colleague spends too much time on details, they should comment, “this is a great discussion, and we could go on for hours. However, there are 20 minutes to finish. Let me take a note here so that we can get to it back later.”
They might discover other needs while presenting; they’ll sometimes need to set up another meeting for those. And that’s fine!
They’re moving forward when they have clear feedback that your solution is at least a general fit or that there are just minor problems that could make your solution unfit.
The transition from Solution Presentation to Business and next steps - confirm proceeding to the next steps: “Does the solution make sense for your company so far?”The customer will probably ask about pricing, implementation time and resources needed, available services, etc.
It’s OK if your sales representative makes a list of these questions and schedule an extra meeting or calls to solve them, as they’re big topics alone. However, before they head back to the office, they need to have a basic understanding of whether it’s possible to close a business in a reasonable time.
Btw, they’re the specialist that has been through this many times, so they shouldn’t be afraid to give “homework” to the prospect to speed up the whole process. E.g., “Can you please set up a 20-minute call with the HR director, so we get her/his input on this?”
Finally, they’re leaving the meeting? Ensure they know not to go before they cleared all the questions, both sides have homework with due dates, and there are the next steps planned.
Ta-dah! There’s your sales opportunity
Did they manage to collect the whole BANT(C)? Does cooperation make sense to both sides?
Great! Then this is the time a lead becomes a sales opportunity. Not sooner. We’re not saying BANT(C) must be collected on the very first meeting. Quite often, it will require several meetings and calls.
Check this article about handling opportunities in a milestone-based sales process to ensure a smooth closing.
Your sales professionals have their styles of selling. However, the parts we described above have to happen sooner or later in every qualification phase, so why not put some structure into your meetings?
Sticking to this structure and not skipping any of the parts will make their life (and yours, too) way easier and their deals faster! On top of this, showing they know what they’re doing: leading meetings, controlling the process, etc., will show they’re professionals.
Don’t be afraid to see them disqualify a lot - not everyone is your customer, and that is fine.
Sales battle cards are the best weapons for your salespeople as they make them prepared to give instant and clever answers to any questions your potential customers might have. Read on to find out how to create your own set of undefeatable battle cards.READ NOW
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