Three Core Sales Skills
An electrician or handyman uses tools. Some examples are a screwdriver, drilling machine, and a wrench. He can work on different projects, or on different stages of a project, and man use all these tools on each project or stage.
I will use the label prospect in this post to refer to both prospects and clients.
A sales persons tools are the skills of Qualifying, Presenting and Closing.
In this post we will look at the skill of Qualifying.
Qualifying is the under appreciated sibling in our toolbox. Closing gets the most attention, and then Presenting. But Qualifying is where its at. Perhaps the reason qualifying gets so little attention is that it is the most difficult to master. If it is mastered, qualifying makes presenting and closing a breeze.
Objective of Qualifying
There are many ‘mini objectives’ of qualifying. Some of these are to know what the prospect or client wants, to find our what their budget is, and to know if you should even proceed with them.
There is a main or overriding objective and it needs to be understood clearly. The overriding objective is that the prospect or client must feel understood. If you achieve other mini objectives, but do not achieve this objective, the sales process will stall. Lets understand why.
Have you ever had a discussion with someone, particularly with someone who was trying to assist you, but you felt they did not really understand you or your situation? How did you respond when they tried to give you solutions? Did you listen to the solutions with an open mind? Or did you close up and just politely listen? Or did you argue against their solution?
Unless you have an unusual level of emotional maturity, you likely did not really listen to them further. And when I say listen, I mean really listen with the intent to seriously consider their solution.
Most people stop the 2 way communication process when they do not feel the other person understands them or their situation. When people feel understood, they open up and start to listen.
When you qualify effectively, both you and the prospect or client win. They feel understood, and as a result, you have deeper insights into their problem that they are looking for a solution to. Now when you start to present or close, you are communicating with a participant who is more likely to listen to you.
Back in early 2000’s I went to a surf store with Lars. I was looking for a leash for a wave ski, and we were going to all the small surf shops in downtown Durban. We had been to several when we walked into the store where this experience took place.
The store itself was new. When I say new, I do not mean fancy. It was simply a surf shop started by a young entrepreneur who was living his dream.
The initial impressions of were not good. The store itself was not very fancy. When we walked in we were not attended to. We walked up a steep flight of stairs to the second level where the air conditioning was not working. We found a disinterested, uninspiring assistant on the second level who gave the impression that they were doing the owner a favor by working their. The sales assistant had zero enthusiasm, and zero desire to assist.
We started walking down the stairs to the ground level when a young guy in his twenty’s asked if we had found what we were looking for. Before we knew it, he was asking follow questions, with a genuine desire to understand our need. Those questions opened up to other questions and we really felt understood.
Keeping in mind my original objective was to purchase a leash. A leash in those days cost about R5, or about $USD0.50. We ended up with me purchasing my leash. Lars purchased a surfboard (another one because he already had 2 at home and everyone knows you need more that 2 surfboards). Because Lars bought a new surfboard, we needed to go try it out immediately. It was 5pm in summer so the perfect time to go into the ocean. This means we also needed wax, and swimsuits. And then he needed a surf bag for his new surfboard. A USD$0.50 sales opportunity grew into a USD$300 sales experience – all because a young entrepreneur new how to qualify. As he qualified, we felt understood, and opened up. As we opened up he identified other sales opportunities and it ended up being a good day for him. Yes, it was the owner who we met as we were going down stairs to leave the building. He was also a phenomenal sales person. No, he wasn’t pushy but he was phenomenal at qualifying, which made presenting a closing easy for him.
The purpose of a framework is to provide clarity of what to do. Our qualifying framework provides this clarity. Lets look at the topics to discuss when qualifying.
The need is the easiest to discuss. Does the prospect actually need your product or service.
Want refers to all the features and benefits the prospect wants from the solution. It is important that these are the wants the prospect can have and can afford. Wants they cannot purchase are irrelevant. So if you thinking I want a sports car but I need a truck, then this is not what want refers to. Want in this example would be now what do I want in a truck.
Roles refers to all participants in a sales opportunity. Most sales people only focus on identifying the decision maker, or what we refer to as the authority, and because they ignore other roles, they lose the sale.
We use a sticky acronym to make the different roles memorable. The acronym is M.U.C.A.S.
Each letter defines a role, or a cap a person wheres that defines their particular involvement and interest in the sales opportunity. A single person can have multiple roles, and it is important to identify each of their roles. It is also not necessary that every role is represented in every sales opportunity.
M stands for Money
Money refers to who will facilitate the payment if your sales opportunity is successful. Who is the person who will either bring the cash or arrange the financing.
My parents are a good example. In a sales environment, the sales person would typically focus on my dad, who was a more dominant personality. When it came to managing the finances, that was my mom’s playground. She would be the one the company would need to call to gather information for financing. If you think she was not important in the sales process, remember that she slept with the decision maker (my dad -just for clarity) and had far more influence on him than any sales person had.
U stands for User
Users refer to anyone who will actually use the product or service. I recall an experience where a car manufacturer convinced a large company to purchase their trucks. It should have been a huge cost saver for the company. The truck drivers were ignored in the process of evaluating the trucks. They did not buy into the new trucks and so abused them. The net result is that the company reverted to their previous brand after a year. All this because the actually truck drivers, the users, were ignored in the sales process.
C stands for Champion
A champion is a participant who promotes you when you are not around. The easiest way to ask identify a champion is to note who you think is promoting you in your absence. In essence they are your ‘assistant sales people’. If a board of decision makers are considering your product or solution, who do you think are promoting you and your solution when you have left the building? Those are your champions.
A stands for Authority
This is the role most sales people try from the outset to identify. The authority is the final decision maker. It is the person who has the authority to approve the purchase when all role players have had their say. Always bear in mind that the other role players likely have greater influence on the Authority than you do and so do not fall into the trap of only focusing on the Authorities in your sales opportunity.
S stands for Screen
Screens are easy to identify. They ask very details questions about specifics. They are normally very analytical and objective as they do so. Their function is to make sure that the product or solution meets some specific requirements.
There are an additional 2 roles and their purpose is to make sure you are aware of any indirect role players. The first are Gate Keepers whose role is to filter appointments for Role Players. An example is a secretary who manages the boss’s planner and screens any appointments so that the boss’s time is respected. The second are External Influencers who do not have a direct role. Your competitors would fall into this category as well as anyone external to the Role Players who the Role Players may seek advice from with regard to the sales opportunity.
Affordability covers all aspects of being able to afford the product or service and typically include the following.
- What is the budget
- Is it being paid cash or is it being financed.
- If it is being financed, does the buyer have the required deposit.
- If necessary, does the buyer have access to additional money.
- What is the buyers credit standing.
- Are there any contingencies that must be met, for example, must the buyer sell what they have first in order to buy your solution.
Timing refers to two items.
First, if they have not done so yet, when will they decide on who they will work with to satisfy the need. An example is a home buyer. First they shop around for a realtor. Once they commit to a realtor, they can do the serious work of shopping for a home.
Second, when does the buyer ideally want the solution implemented by. Once again using real estate, when ideally would the buyer like to move into their new home.
This post provides an overview of the skill of qualifying. It does assume that you have a basic understanding of the skills of asking questions (open questions, closed questions, trial close questions) and listening with the intent to understand. Listening with the intent to understand is a topic I will cover in a separate post on communication.
I invite you to master the content of this post. It is the framework upon which effective qualifying can be built. You will know that you have mastered qualifying if you consistently work with prospects who are easier to work with and who open up to you in the Sales Process. If will be because of your enhanced skill of qualifying effectively, that your prospects will seem easier to work with.