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Disqualifying Can Increase Sales

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Last week, I wrote about developing qualified opportunities. This week I’ll tackle the other side of the coin. When should you disqualify an opportunity?

Many sales people get a frightened look in their eyes when the subject of disqualification comes up. I’ve heard more than one sales leader describe it as “they try to wrestle everything to the ground”. It’s an unspoken truth that many sales professionals don’t practice disqualification at all.

But the fact of the matter is that 30-40% of all enterprise sales opportunities end in no decision. Worse, when a sales person works on an inquiry that can’t buy, they get robbed three times. First they lose the time they worked on the inquiry without a reward. Second, that time could have been spent on a real opportunity that could buy. And third, the opportunity they missed might go to a competitor. When you think about it, disqualification should be a common practice!

Imprivata is the leader in Single Sign-On technology. They make it easy and secure for Healthcare professionals and others to access a range of applications with one sign on. When I first met the team, it was a pleasure to see their marketing team was doing a great job with lead development. Too good in fact. Their sales people were getting swamped with leads, and at that time, they didn’t have an automated way to score leads for better digestion. So we tackled the problem with a simple disqualification process.

We had four disqualifying questions for inquiries:

  1. What business issues are currently getting executive attention in their company? This question helps determine if there is alignment with the seller’s solution, or misalignment. For instance, if the seller’s solution saves money, but the prospect company is focusing on new competitors entering the field, their message might get lost in the weeds.
  2. What problems were compelling the evaluator to reach out to Imprivata? People don’t really buy capabilities, they buy things that resolve problems. If they can’t identify the problem, they’ll have a hard time convincing their boss to spend money when there are other well articulated problems to address.
  3. What’s the impact of the problems and the business issue? Again, if they can’t articulate the value of addressing the problem set, they will have a difficult time getting signatures to spend money, especially if other buying initiatives do a better job of articulating value.
  4. Will they introduce the seller to other stakeholders? Recent research indicates that sponsors who will mobilize other stakeholders into the conversation are more likely to succeed in selling your solution into their organization. Conversely, contacts that refuse access are more likely to end in a no decision.

If the answer was negative in all four categories, the seller would put the contact on an automated nurturing feed, and offer to get back in a few months. Notice they aren’t dropping the prospect, they’re really re-prioritizing them down the list. If they had some positive responses, but some blanks, the contact’s willingness to help address the unknown information was used to determine which bucket they were assigned. The key to this successful disqualification process was having a largely objective way to determine who should be de-prioritized. This alleviated the compulsion to tackle everything to the ground with some solid logic.

Imprivata tracked their results. They cited a 20% increase in deals closed! Curiously, they also cited a 19% increase in the average contract value. In hindsight, selecting opportunities that could better articulate their business issues, underlying connected problems, and economic value tended to execute larger transactions. In effect they got a double win out of disqualifying.

If your team is really busy, but still struggling to hit the numbers on a consistent basis with high participation from all members, it might be time to consider implementing a disqualifying initiative.

The Enterprise Selling Group helps commercial organizations tune their sales and marketing disciplines to improve revenue results. Kevin Temple is the founder and President of The Enterprise Selling Group.  

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