How do you know if an opportunity qualifies or does not qualify?
You receive an inquiry for some information and request if your company can help. What are your processes to respond to this request? Do you delegate it, do you respond directly, do you ask questions and take care of the request?
Many business peers I talk to seem to have different ideas and approaches. Some are very successful while others seem to have challenges with qualifying opportunities. I always feel the best way to start is by asking some questions to help qualify the opportunity.
Let's go through a recent example and see how you would handle this.
"Hi, I heard about your company and you were the name I was given to help my company with problems we are having with our technology". Sounds good and most of us are ready to go! Or are we?
I would use the phone as my first choice to have a discussion with this person by asking some questions. First, thank them for reaching out to us. Do a bit of homework before calling them back (if they call you, then you have to rely on your experience of what you may know and may bring up their website and data in your CRM but be careful on multi-tasking, yes people can tell).
Ask how they heard about your company and if it is okay for them to share the person who referred them. Find out what they are looking for assistance on. Be careful not to ask "what is your problem and how can we help?". (I'll let you think about that and let it sink in before moving on ....)
Qualifying questions and an interactive discussion can lead to a number of good paths. Sometimes you may establish you cannot help. If this is the case, you may suggest someone else you know that can or refer a couple of others that may help. If you stumble across something you can actually solve or offer advice on the spot, go for it.
Most of the time, your qualifying questions and discussions will result in an agreement for a meeting. Here is where you can set the tone of what your company is all about. Set an agenda, a time for the meeting (usually 45 minutes) and an expectation for the meeting. You should establish prior to the meeting, if they are expecting a proposal or a technical conversation or a solution to solve a problem.
Typically the first meeting is a "get to know each other" discussion where you both learn about your respective companies and what it is they are trying to do. You can determine if there a fit for your company to assist and add them as a client. Sometimes you may find there is not a good fit and it is okay to gracefully walk away.
Do you have a list of qualifying questions? We have a list for general inquiries which we drill down to infrastructure, web, custom software and so forth. Be specific, ask questions, take notes, do your homework and set expectations. Start off on the right foot.
I never like getting blind-sided when I arrive at an initial meeting and the other person was expecting a written proposal or a technician to solve a problem. In these very rare occasions, I feel that I did not ask enough questions to properly qualify and set the expectations. These are the keys to qualifying.
Yes, the answer is in your questions when qualifying an opportunity.