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How to Coach Your Team to Better Qualify Sales Opportunities

Sales Management

On this episode, Founder of Membrain.com George Brontén asks: "How do you help your sales team qualify (or disqualify) opportunities?”

Salespeople often spend too much time on opportunities that aren’t currently qualified. In this video, we talk about how to coach your team using opportunity coaching to help your sales team better qualify opportunities and improve win rates.

 

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Video Transcript

That's really a great question. It gets to a real problem that exists in many sales organizations that salespeople spend too much time on opportunities that aren't currently qualified—and they don't know what steps to take to qualify those opportunities.
 
So acknowledge that it is a real problem: disqualifying those opportunities that aren't qualified and aren't going to be qualified any time soon, and move those out of the pipeline.
 
I also think it gets to one of the most rewarding aspects of being a sales manager which is coaching. The type of coaching that we're talking about here is what I would call opportunity coaching or often referred to as deal coaching.
 
And the reason that's rewarding is you're able to work with your salespeople to help them improve their win rates and advance deals they're working on more rapidly through the sales pipeline. This is also a topic we cover in our new book The High-impact Sales Manager.
 
As you think about opportunity coaching, what you want to make sure is that you approach this in a constructive way. It shouldn't be an interrogation.
 
If it's an interrogation or the salesperson feels that they're going to be in any way intimidated, they're going to stop bringing opportunities to their sales managers. What a manager needs to do is think about what questions to ask to help the salesperson gain the skills to start qualifying their own opportunities. Because you're not going to be there for every single opportunity.
 
And with that, I want to get to some very basics that I covered in a prior episode of SRG Insights and that's the concept of BANT. BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing.
 
The first one, budget. Is there is an identified budget associated with this opportunity? Authority is the person you're working with, do they have the authority to approve this opportunity? Need, is there a compelling business need that's been identified within the organization? And timing, how soon are they looking to solve this problem or to address this opportunity?
 
Always keep in mind BANT as a preliminary qualification criteria. But if it was that easy and every deal was either BANT-qualified or not BANT-qualified, you'd only be working on a fraction of total opportunities. The reality is many deals that you want continue to work on do not meet all these criteria.
 
You want to go one step deeper when you think about opportunity coaching. Figure out which of the BANT criteria meets and then here's a series of questions you can ask that get to the heart of opportunity coaching.
 
The first question is: Can the salesperson share with you what the customer's business need is? Ultimately, selling is about either solving a business in a compelling way or helping a company address an opportunity in a compelling way. The problem with a lot of opportunities is there may be a weak need or there may be a marginal opportunity. But if the opportunity is not compelling, it may be that it's easier for the customer not to solve it and maintain the status quo.
 
So here's a coaching point: Let's say the salesperson can't share with you exactly what the opportunity is. You might have work with them on questions they can ask the customer to better understand the business need or opportunity. Then based on that—your evaluation of that need or your mutual evaluation of need—you can decide whether this is an opportunity you want to continue to pursue.
 
The second question you want to ask is: What's the unique value that your sales organization is bringing to that customer? Potentially, there is a need or an opportunity that's compelling, but that doesn't mean your position is to address that opportunity. So can your salesperson articulate how their solution best addresses the customer's opportunity? If they can't, there's more work to be done.
 
A key coaching point here would be helping your salesperson develop a value proposition that, in two or three key points, addresses the customer's business need or their opportunities. Working on the value proposition, so you're addressing the business need of the customer.
 
A third question you should ask is: Who are the decision-makers and are you currently working with them? Does a salesperson know how the decision is going to be made? This gets back to the BANT qualification of authority. They may be working with that influencer and that's good, and then; Are there other influencers? and which of those influencers could help them identify who the decision-makers are?
 
They need to be able to reverse engineer for you, either now or in the future, exactly what the decision-making process will be. And a key way to do that is to start mapping their organization. Particularly on a complex sale, figure out who are the key stakeholders, who are the key influencers, who are the key decision-makers, and make sure that you have an access strategy.
 
Ultimately, salespeople often spend a lot of time, and then find out that the key decision-makers have another vendor or a whole different solution in mind. So understanding who's going to make that decision and how you're going to gain access to them is very important.
 
The coaching point I would offer here is mapping the organization and determining which influencers you can get to who can ultimately get you to those decision-makers as early as possible in the sales process.
 
Our fourth question is is how will the competition try and beat you? There's an identified business need, you have a value proposition that gets that need, you have access or you have a plan to get access to the decision-makers, but you have to think about who are you competing against because is your solution really the best solution?
 
It's fair to have your salesperson ask the customer "Can you share with me who we're competing against for this opportunity?" They may give you those names, in which case you have some good competitive intelligence, and they may not.
 
Assuming they do, what you want to do is, as objectively as possible, outline what your competitive strengths and weaknesses, and then start putting together some discussion points that play to your strengths. Start by highlighting areas that you have a competitive point of differentiation that you can bring to your customer.
 
The coaching point here is work with the salesperson—particularly if you know who the competition is—on the strengths, also analyze where you've gone up against that competitor before or what kind of some of the win themes were; and if you lost in the past, understand why you lost and what you could have done differently.
 
In many cases though, the customer won't share with you who the competition is. In that case, use your industry knowledge, know who the top tier players are, and go through the same type of analysis assuming that you're going to be competing against the people you compete with most often.
 
The last question you should ask is: Why will we win? And this is important. It gets to two key points here. One is can the salesperson share with you exactly why you're going to win? They should have what their win themes are. And is the salesperson confident when they explain them to you?
 
So you're trying to get to, "Do we really have really good win themes that are going to allow us to win? And is the salesperson you're working with confident that they can...in the way they're presenting them? Because if they're confident presenting it to you, it's a pretty good bet they're going to be confident when they present them to the customer.
 
Coaching point here, if the win themes aren't strong, you need to go back and look at the four prior questions in terms of the need, the value they bring in terms of how you solve the problem, who decision-makers are, your competitive points of differentiation, and then come back and develop stronger win themes.
 
The rewarding part of this, is that this is an opportunity to train your salespeople. You're coaching them, but also training them to go through this analysis on their own. If they understand that you're going to look for BANT and then ask these five questions, they're going to start doing that—whether you're actually coaching on a particular deal or not. You're also going to find out they're going to spend much more time on those opportunities that are qualified, and disqualify some of those much earlier than they would've normally.

SRG Insights is a Q&A video series where we answer your questions on the topics of sales, sales management, sales coaching, and sales training. Featuring sales experts with over 25 years of sales and sales management experience.  

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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.