The Value of Sales Qualification and Executing Sales Qualifying Call
Many IT staffing sales professionals have a hard time deciding which accounts and which contacts to call on and pursue. Even more agonizing is trying to decide how much time to invest pursuing any one contact or account because salespeople don’t know what the return will be on their investment of time and energy (pursuing the account/contact). As a result salespeople often spend too much time pursuing the wrong accounts and contacts (very frustrating) or they walk away from “good” accounts too early in the process only to discover months later their competitor has 20 consultants billing. This is one of those things that separates top performers from average performers. Average performers waste days, weeks and even months spinning their wheels on prospects who never buy yet top performers seem to have a knack for selecting the "golden goose" from the haystack. As a result top performers experience a quicker, shorter sales cycle. How do they do it? They execute the sales qualifying call.
I believe the single most important conversation an IT staffing sales professional has with their prospects is the sales qualifying call. The sales qualifying call is where the proveriable fork in the road lies for the salesperson and their prospect. The salesperson must determine if the relationship is worth pursuing by determining if the prospect qualifies to do business with him or her and if they would be a good fit to do business together. Yes, you heard me correctly, the prospect must qualify to do business with the salesperson. But it’s not obvious from reading a Linkedin profile which leads are “good” and which will be a waste of time. In fact, despite how “perfect” a prospect’s LinkedIn profile may look including their long list of responsibilities and accomplishments such as “manage onshore and offshore resources,” “vendor management,” “budget,” or “lead and manage cross functional teams,” you still don’t know if they would be a good fit for you and your organization. And you sure as heck DON'T want to make the cardinal sin of sales which is to make assumptions about your prospect. This is where sales qualification comes in. By asking the right sales qualifying questions you’ll be able to determine whether the relationship should be pursued and if so, what the next steps are. By qualifying your prospects you will also be able to segment your high value prospects from your low value prospects in your CRM or ATS which will improve your time management and productivity.
Learning to consistently ask these six sales qualifying questions and executing the sales qualifying call will help ensure you focus your time and energy on high value prospects and shorten your sales cycle.
Authority to Hire & Fire
As an IT staffing sales professional, the first thing you need to figure out when qualifying any new lead or prospect is, do they possess the authority to hire and fire their own staff including full-time employees and contractors or consultants. One simple sales qualifying question you might want to ask is, "are you responsible for hiring, firing and managing your own staff?" It’s really that simple yet many IT staffing sales professionals fail to ask this question because they're either afraid to ask or they make assumptions based off of the prospect's linkedIn profile. To ensure you don’t waste your time on window shoppers, be sure to ask this simple and straight-forward sales qualifying question.
Authority to Hire/ Use IT Staffing Firms
Once you have determined that your prospect possess the authority to hire and fire you need to determine if they use outside IT staffing or consulting firms for their hiring. What good does it do you to pursue a lead who owns hiring authority but doesn’t use or possess the authority to hire candidates from a staffing firm? You might ask your prospect, “do you ever engage external IT staffing firms to hire full-time employees or consultants?” You may also ask “what has your experience been working with IT staffing firms?”
Owns Hiring Budget
Even after you have determined that your prospect has the authority to hire and fire their own staff, and they use staffing firms, you still need to determine if they own their own hiring budget. To determine if your prospect owns his or her own hiring budget you might ask, “when you do hire a new employee or consultant, does that come from your budget?” You can also ask “does your hiring budget allow for you to hire IT consultants and/or pay a fee to a staffing firm?” The answer to these questions will begin to provide clarity around the prospect’s budget process and how budget approval works. Keep in mind you may need ask follow-up, drill-down questions for further clarification.
At this point you have determined your prospect possess hiring authority, they use IT staffing firms and they possess their own hiring budget. This prospect is starting to take shape and looking pretty good. But wait, you also need to find out what their process is or would be if you were to work together on a real job order. This is where asking sales qualifying questions come into play for qualifying the prospects hiring process. To determine the sales qualifying questions you should be asking to qualify your prospect’s hiring process consider the following:
Are you O.K. working with prospects in which you have to submit candidates through a VMS, MSP, Recruiter, HR or Procurement and not directly to the hiring manager? If yes, are you confident you can build a strong book of business this way? Are you confident this is the easiest way and best way to build your book of business?
Are you O.K. working with prospects in which you have to schedule candidate interviews through their VMS, MSP, Recruiter, HR or Procurement department and not directly with the hiring manager? If yes, are you confident you can build a strong book of business this way? Are you confident this is the easiest way and best way to build your book of business?
Are you O.K. working with prospects in which you will receive limited or no direct feedback from the hiring manager? If yes, are you confident you can build a strong book of business this way? Are you confident this is the easiest way and best way to build your book of business?
Your answers to these questions will help you shape and define your qualification criteria for qualifying your ideal buyers. Establishing and adhering to tight qualification guidelines around the hiring process is what separates top performers from average performers. One of the many benefits of being in professional sales is you get to pick and choose who you want to do business with.
Does this prospect hire the types of candidates that you and your your recruiting team have had success with historically, on a consistent basis? What you’re trying to determine and qualify is, how well does the prospect’s hiring needs align with the strengths of your recruiting team? If you specialize in .Net and your recruiters have 5,000 Net candidates in their ATS but the prospect hires Java candidates and your recruiters historically have not focused on Java, does it make sense to pursue the relationship? You decide.
Competitive Landscape (Competition)
How many vendors does the prospect work with? The question you’re trying to answer here is “if I were to get an opportunity with this prospect, would I have a realistic shot at winning consistently?” Remember, bringing in a new account is only part of the battle, you also need to bring in accounts in which your recruiters feel confident they will have success. You don’t want to be bringing in accounts where you have to convince your recruiters the job orders associated with that account or prospect is worth their time. So if your prospect likes to put their job orders out to six or 8 or a dozen or more different staffing firms and you know some of those vendors have large recruiting teams or a national delivery center, you will want to put some thought into whether or not the prospect is still worth pursuing. The intent of sales qualification is to help salespeople work smarter, not harder.
Benefits to Sales Qualification and Executing the Sales Qualifying Call
There are a number of benefits to sales qualification and executing the sales qualifying call. Some of the key benefits that top performers experience include:
- Avoid wasting their time and their prospect’s time
- They’re able to quickly establish credibility and earn the prospect’s trust
- They experience a shorter sales cycle
- They see an improvement in their sales win rates
- Personalize and tailor their messaging to their prospects (buyer persona)
Getting Started: Define and Score (assign a point value) Your Prospects
As you consider the six sales qualifying questions (shared with you in this blog) decide what answer is the best, optimal answer to each question. For example, you may decide that your ideal prospect is a prospect that has no VMS. However you may also decide that a prospect that uses a VMS is still a prospect you want to pursue but you just don’t regard them with the same value as the prospect who doesn’t use a VMS. To segment your prospects and capitalize on the benefits of sales qualification you will want to assign a point value for each qualification criteria. In this case a prospect who doesn’t use a VMS might have a value of 5 points and a prospect who does use a VMS might have a point value of 1 point. By assigning point values to each qualification element (qualifying questions) and how your prospect’s score, you can rank your prospects against your qualification criteria that represents the perceived value that each prospect represents to you and your organization.
You can learn more about our methodology and training approach here. How do you and your IT Staffing firm go about qualifying prospects? Do you have a methodology for qualifying and scoring your prospects? When in your sales process do you qualify your prospects? Let’s start a conversation in the comments section below.
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.