Four Characteristics All Qualified Job Orders Must Share in Common
What is the definition of a sales opportunity, or in the world of staffing, a qualified job order? There is no universally agreed upon or correct answer. However, a few clarifications are needed because the concept of a qualified job order or sales opportunity impacts how salespeople and recruiters spend their time, sales-recruiting alignment (if you can’t agree on what a qualified opportunity is you will struggle to scale your business) and your ability to forecast sales.
So, at what point does an opportunity or job order become qualified in which the sales rep puts the job order into their CRM or ATS for the recruiting team to work? If each sales rep has a slightly different idea of what entails “qualified” they will put job orders into their CRM or ATS at varying stages and move their job orders down the funnel at completely different paces. With this kind of inconsistency across your sales team, sales leaders will find it impossible to accurately forecast sales revenue and providing opportunity specific coaching will be next to impossible without a common sales process to work from. To avoid these headaches you will need to define clear stages to your sales process with customer verifiable outcomes to ensure deals are qualified properly and measured properly.
All Qualified Job Orders Must Share These Four Common Characteristics
Do We Have to Buy Now? Toss out the question of "when do you need the candidate to start?" because we all know the client is going to say ASAP. What you need to understand is consumers buy things out of want, desire and emotion. Corporate buyers including hiring managers however only buy products and services when they absolutely must. They only buy out of necessity. They don’t buy things for emotional pleasure and they certainly don’t buy things they want because they’re concerned with controlling and minimizing costs. Even if they determine they have to buy a solution to solve a problem they will still put that purchase off until it becomes absolutely necessary. They do this not because they’re procrastinating but because it is the reality of running a business. While all businesses have unlimited opportunity for improving operations, all businesses also have limited resources from which to pull from, and an obligation to go through a valuation and prioritization process. Questions that both you and your customer need to ask in order to answer the question of “do we need to by something now?” include:
- Problem or Goal: What is the problem, goal, objective, need, or pain the customer is trying to address?
- Compelling Event: Why does the customer need to take action on this right now? What negative financial impact would the client experience if they did nothing and things remained the same?
- Urgency: Is there a deadline in which action must be take action? Is there a deadline in which the customer must start seeing new, improved results?
- Risk: What is the downside of making this purchase? What could go wrong?
- Priority: Of all of the initiatives the customer needs to act on, which are the most important and top priority right now?
The decision of “do we have to buy now” is by far the most important decision your customer must make because if they can’t arrive at a decision none of the others decisions matter. Top down initiatives-projects or initiatives being driven from the board or C-suite- begin here. And because every buying decision ends here, determining if your customer must buy now is the single most important thing you must uncover about your customer when qualifying job orders.
Key Takeaway: Salespeople need to prepare for and ask these questions when taking and qualifying job orders. More importantly, salespeople need to rehearse or role play asking these questions so that in the heat of the moment they don’t choke and “forget” to ask. It is really easy to look at these questions on paper and understand the reasons for asking them. BUT, for most IT staffing sales professionals, the actual act of asking a real customer these is NOT an easy task. Salespeople need to practice role playing these questions so that they become second nature.
What Should We Buy? Once your customer determines that they do in fact have to buy, the next logical decision they have to make is, what should we buy? Your customers know that there is always more than one way to solve a problem or achieve a goal. For example, as an alternative to hiring a consultant from your IT staffing firm your customers could also outsource their IT functions, hire a full time employee, hire a system integrator or bench based consulting firm to manage the entire project or maybe they can implement software to perform the tasks that your IT consultant would otherwise perform for them. Other factors that your customer will have to consider when deciding on what should we buy include:
- Results: Will this solution deliver our desired results?
- Feasibility: Are we confident this solution will work for us?
- Proven: Has this been done before successfully? Has this consultant previously solved this problem before and delivered our desired results?
- Risk: What are the odds of success or failure if we go this route?
- ROI: How quickly can we start to see results from taking this course of action?
- Priority: Of all the possible solutions to choose from, is this one the best for us?
Key Takeaway: Salespeople must resist the temptation of assuming that the only solution their customers are considering is hiring a consultant (to solve their problem or achieve their goal) and instead start collaborating with their customers on the different options they have to consider. Remember, the job of the salesperson is to help the customer make the smartest and safest choice for achieving their goal.
Budget & Resources: Do We Have The Money & Resources to Buy? Before any hiring manager can hire a consultant they must have or be able to get the money to buy. Smart prospects including IT hiring managers also have to assess whether or not they have the manpower and time to implement and utilize whatever it is they are buying. For IT hiring managers this equates to them having both time and manpower for on-boarding, training and getting a consultant productive. Hiring a new consultant is a lot of work for an IT hiring manager. Screening and interviewing candidates is the easy part, the hard part that consumes most of their time is training and supervising them. Considerations for the customer to consider when making the budget and resource decision include:
- Budget: Have we planned for and budgeted for this investment?
- Funding Availability: Do we actually have the money on hand or financing in place to make this investment?
- ROI: Does this investment meet our minimum requirements for ROI?
- Manpower: Do we have the people and bandwidth to make this project successful?
- Management Oversight: Is there a person or committee who has agreed to take ownership of and responsibility for the success of this project or consultant?
- Prioritization: Of all the places we could invest our resources right now, is this the best place?
Key Takeaway: Salespeople must learn to get comfortable discussing money with their customers. More specifically, salespeople must get comfortable asking customers pointed questions about their budget, funding and approval processes. This is what sales is, yet many sales professionals admit they’re not comfortable having these types of conversations. The takeaway is sales managers need to start role playing with their salespeople (everyday) the questions that need to be asked in order to qualify if a customer has the resources and budget approved. Until salespeople get comfortable asking these questions they will continue to pull in unqualified job orders.
Provider: Who Should We Buy From? If your customer determines they need to buy something now, they know what they need to buy and they have the resources to buy it, they still need a provider to buy it from. As your customer considers their options for whom they will buy from, they will be asking themselves the following questions:
- Vendor Relationship: Who do we already know and trust who can provide this service or deliver this solution?
- Reputation: Can we trust this vendor to be around after the sale to support us?
- Functional/Technical Fit: Does this vendor understand our business, industry, problems were trying to solve and goals were trying to achieve? Can the consultant deliver the functionality we need?
- Vendor Value: Which vendor offers the best total package in terms of value and low risk?
- Delivery: Can we trust this vendor to deliver?
These four decisions are all interrelated like a jigsaw puzzle and to get a complete picture of the overall buying process you have to understand each. Each of these decisions are interdependent on one another. If a customer determines they have to buy now to solve a business problem but the company doesn’t have the resources to buy then they can’t possibly buy now. Similarly, if the customer has the resources to buy and a provider to buy from but no urgency to buy now or no consequences if they don’t buy now then they’ll most likely put the purchase off a little longer. All four of these decisions must be made in favor of buying before a customer is ready to buy.
If you were to only look at the provider decision and not in relation to the other three decisions than you might conclude that this is where the sale is made. However, winning the provider decision only gives you a chance to win the other three. And if you only focus on winning the provider decision you will end up spending most of your time talking about your service offerings, features and benefits instead of the results your client is trying to achieve. If you fail to seek out and understand how your customer will make decisions that relate to commitment, what should we buy, and resources then you will be perceived as a trivial commodity vendor at best and not considered “partner material.”
The best way to win the provider decision is for you to help your customer make the best possible commitment, what should we buy and resources decisions possible. This is how you add value to your customers buying process. You can learn more about our methodology and training approach here.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.