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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Member Blog: What is ‘qualification’ and why is it so important?

By Nick Bailey - Managing Director, Apexselling Ltd

I begin this part of my seminars and sales training courses by asking the following question:

 “How many people in the room like working all the hours possible, sometimes through the night, to get a proposal to a client only to find out weeks later that they’ve lost the bid to the competition, or even worse the prospect has decided not to go ahead with the project anyway?”

Not a single person raises their hand. Not surprising really. So why do we put ourselves through this when we could work much smarter and ask ourselves the right qualification questions before proceeding to bid?

So what is qualification? It’s the process of asking a series of smart questions which allows you to test whether:

a) You have a viable solution to the clients’ needs.
b) It’s sufficiently different to the competition.
c) It’s the right size and will happen in the right timeframe.
d) There is a budget for it and you know and have met the owner of it.
e) There is clarity about the return the client will get from the investment and it’s worth it.
f) The risk to you in doing it is manageable and you can return a decent margin from it.
g) You understand, or have a very good feel for, the clients buying criteria by which they will select their chosen partner.

When was the last time you diligently asked all these questions and maybe more before investing your hard earned bid budget into yet another ‘unqualified’ opportunity?

A lot of business people, usually entrepreneurs without a sales background, think that sales processes are a necessary evil rather than an investment in success, but by simply applying a-g above you will radically improve your chances of success.

Of course for each question in a-g you can delve deeper to make sure that you are really testing your answer and ensuring the desired outcome.

Let’s combine questions ‘e’ and ‘b’ because in answering these we create a ‘Value Proposition’ i.e. why the client will buy from you and not the competition. To create a winning value proposition we need to establish a minimum of three things.

1. What is the return on investment the client will obtain from your solution, expressed quantitatively? E.g. for every £1 they spend on your solution do they get £1.75 back?
2. What are the qualitative benefits from your solution? E.g. Faster customer response.
3. Why should they pick you? What is your Unique Selling Proposition? (USP)

In answering these you then have a compelling business case to buy your offer.

If you’d like to know more please contact me via

Nick Bailey, MBA, DipM, FCIM, FInstSMM, MIoD. Author of ‘Customers are F.I.C.K.L.E’™

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