In a recent article, I explained why BANT-based sales qualification is being overtaken by FAINT (Finance-Authority-Impact-Need-Timescale). Now it’s time to expand on the point by explaining why qualifying for Impact is proving to be a critical factor in increasing sales win rates - particularly in today’s challenging business climate, where so many apparently promising opportunities are fizzling out in a decision to “do nothing”.
As I pointed out in that article, it’s not enough for your prospect to agree that a need exists. They also need to acknowledge and agree that not dealing with the issue will have a significant impact on their organisation in terms of reduced revenues, increased costs or a failure to achieve a key corporate objective.
In fact, I strongly believe - and the evidence from a series of recent sales pipeline reviews bears this out - that if you can’t get your prospect to agree the cost of doing nothing and to identify who else will be affected you need to carefully consider whether the opportunity is likely to close any time soon.
Forgive me if you regard this as sales 101 and hardly worthy of your attention: I’ve been moved to write this post because despite - or maybe because of - the challenging economic climate I still see sales people pursuing “opportunities” that are never likely to close and wasting resources that could be more profitably applied to better qualified deals.
Identifying a Need is not enough
It’s relatively easy for your prospect to identify a series of needs that you believe your solution could help them address. But most people - and most organisations - can identify far more needs than they could ever possibly afford to deal with.
So they end up deciding to prioritise the issues that they simply cannot afford to ignore. These are the issues that are either increasing their costs, reducing their revenues, or preventing a key corporate initiative from being fulfilled.
In each case, there would be serious consequences if they continued to either ignore or fail to deal with the problem. In most cases, the issue will be impacting a number of people, and a number of departments.
In many situations - and these represent the most promising opportunities - the impact is cumulative. The longer the status quo is allowed to prevail, the worse the impact on the organisation.
How to Qualify for Impact
This is why I’m advising all my clients to focus their attention on qualifying every sales opportunity for Impact. Here are some of the impact-related questions that have proved to be most helpful:
- What caused you to start searching for a solution to this issue?
- How have you tried to deal with this issue in the past? With what results?
- What makes now the right time to implement a solution?
- What would happen if you simply allowed the status quo to prevail?
- What would a 3/6/12 months delay cost the organisation?
- Who else would be affected by a decision to carry on as you are?
- Who do you need to convince to make this happen?
I recommend that you review every opportunity in your sales pipeline to identify those where the impact is unclear or where it has not yet been acknowledged by your prospect, starting with the deals that in the current quarter forecast.
Use the qualifying questions - and others that are specifically relevant to your particular offering - to try to clarify the impact in opportunities where it is currently unclear. Use the “who else would be affected” question to negotiate access to other significant stakeholders.
Help your champions articulate the Impact
Be very cautious about forecasting opportunities that cannot be associated with a significant impact that has been acknowledged by the prospect - and where the impact is clear, work with your champions within the prospect to make sure that they are fully equipped to articulate the impact to the other stakeholders who are involved in the buying decision.
Showing a strong potential Return on Investment is not enough to ensure that you win your prospect’s business in these risk-averse times. If you are to give yourself the best chance of winning against the option to simply “do nothing”, you also have to clearly demonstrate the impact of letting things carry on as they are.
Elininating avoidable “decisions to do nothing”
I hope that this approach might help you focus on your truly winnable deals, increase your sales win rates, and reduce avoidable “decisions to do nothing”. Please let me know how you get along - and please share any other ideas you've managed to implement that have successfully focused your sales people on the impact of the solutions they are selling.