Operational Definitions of Sales Qualification Criteria
One of the most valuable characteristics of process excellence is the distinction between what people can control and what they cannot. No improvement is possible without this information. The good news is that the effort spent identifying these factors helps salespeople become more effective and to elevates the performance of the team.
Qualification criteria should be worked out in great detail, ideally in the form of questions salespeople can score on a five-point Likert scale. The idea is that each salesperson understands the ranges of observable facts in areas such as:
- How do we know there is an opportunity?
- What is the pain/value to the customer?
- What is the value to us?
- Can we win the business?
Completing these Likert scale questions accomplishes a number of valuable objectives:
- Focuses attention on the facts of the customer rather than on what the salesperson (or the boss) wants the truth to be.
- Provides a repeatable checklist or strategy for how to handle accounts/opportunities
- Captures useful data about the accounts/opportunities (parallel to how a check sheet is used in a production plant)
We have found in our work with clients that the effort to develop those qualification criteria systematically and to use them in every deal offers dramatic payback. It provides a more precise language for understanding their opportunities and account situations. It enables salespeople to discern what they can and cannot control and to improve their chances of winning a deal by designing their strategies around what they can control. It also gives them justification to walk away, eliminating wasted effort.
Further, it standardizes the way the organization prioritizes its pursuit of opportunities, elevating the predictability of the whole system. Furthermore, it becomes possible for deal quality scores to be used as feedback for the effectiveness of lead generation campaigns. The data this type of approach provides can be priceless.
Avoid the blunt instrument approach to sales qualification. Define your terms. It works.