Every sales pipeline includes opportunities that are never likely to close, and that - for as long as they remain in the pipeline - will divert resources away from your more attractive opportunities. I’ve found the following 15 questions to be extremely helpful in sorting out the true potential from the unwanted clutter, and I hope that you might find them equally useful…
The questions fall into three broad categories: Are they going to buy, Can you win, and Is the deal worth winning? I’d like to suggest that you ask each of the following questions of every opportunity in your current pipeline. How many of those opportunities still look real, and worthy of your continued resources?
Are They Going to Buy?
1 - NEED: Have they articulated a clear business need - most likely to be an issue they must address or a goal they must achieve?
2 - MOTIVATION: Have they agreed that significant negative consequences would follow from not dealing with the problem?
3 - COMPELLING EVENT: Is there a significant compelling event that will force them to take action to solve the problem now?
4 - FINANCE: Even if a formal budget has not yet been allocated, can they afford to buy your solution to the identified problem?
5 - AUTHORITY: Are you in direct contact with someone with the authority to commit the necessary funds?
Can You Win?
6 - COMPATIBILITY: Are your respective company cultures (values, purpose, way of doing business) compatible?
7 - CREDIBILITY: Do your organisation’s executives have the necessary credibility with the prospect's executives?
8 - CRITERIA: Has the prospect shared their decision-making criteria and are they aligned with the strengths of your solution?
9 - COMPELLING ADVANTAGE: Have you been able to establish a clear competitive advantage against all the other options open to them?
10 - RESOURCES: Have you scoped out the resources that will be necessary to win the deal and are they available?
Is The Deal Worth Winning?
11 - SHORT TERM REVENUE: Is the short-term revenue potential sufficiently attractive to justify the effort required to win this deal?
12 - LONG TERM REVENUE: Is the long-term revenue potential sufficiently attractive to invest the effort required to win this deal?
13 - PROFITABILITY: Is the opportunity likely to satisfy our profit objectives in both the immediate and longer term?
14 - STRATEGIC VALUE: Would winning this deal have a clear strategic value in helping us develop our presence in this market?
15 - RISK: Are we satisfied that the risk of the project failing to deliver the desired outcomes is minimal?
Two Bonus Questions
In addition to each of the above 15 questions, I suggest you also ask two critical bonus questions:
+1 PROOF: If you get a positive answer to any of the above questions, you must then ask “where’s the evidence?” - and if none is provided, you must discount the answer
+2 REQUALIFICATION: If you get a “don’t know” answer to any of the above questions, you must ask the sales person to find out the answer - and be cautious about forecasting the opportunity in the meantime.
Let me know how you get along, and please share any additional qualifying questions that you have found useful in your own business. You might also like to review a checklist that many B2B companies have found useful in comparing their current practices against the best-in-class. You can download the checklist here.