Qualification is the most important part of the sales process. Without understanding people’s needs it is impossible to provide them with a solution.
Yet, so often, the qualification stage is skipped over as if it is a preamble or warm-up act for the main event, the pitch. Rather, we should approach the qualification as the headline act (Stormzy headlining the Pyramid Stage, if you will) and viewing the pitch as the final encore to give the crowd what they want (Chris Martin coming on stage to sing Blinded by your Grace, to continue the analogy).
I am going to cover a few frameworks which, at HeadBox, we have found helpful for both velocity and enterprise sales. We are in the unique position of having two SaaS products – Power Host Packages (velocity) and HeadBox Business (enterprise) – which require slightly different qualification processes.
“Power Host Packages” provide our Host customers with a platform to receive qualified corporate briefs, submit proposals and track conversion. This product has a velocity sales process with few stakeholders and a sales cycle of around 30 days. For “Power Host Packages” we employ the qualification model BANT – Budget, Authority, Needs, Timeline.
On the other side of our business, selling HeadBox Business to large corporates such as EY, Virgin Media and Pret a Manager is an Enterprise sale with multiple stakeholders, several deal stages, and a significantly longer sales cycles than for Supply customers. This unique sales process requires a separate qualification model and for this side of the business we employ MEDDIC – Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain Points, Champion.
In this blog, I am going to touch on the necessary steps for both frameworks and share a few pointers as to how you might apply these to your business.
Budget – Put simply, in order to sell to someone they need to have the cash to buy. In B2B sales this is referred to as “budget” which a salesperson must identify – how much do they have, who is involved in signing it off, and when is it available? In the initial stages of the process, it is key to identifying whether there is budget available. As you understand the buyer’s needs and the solution you are going to provide, then you will seek to gain a deeper understanding of how much budget they have and when it is available.
Authority – Who is involved in making this decision, who signs off on the budget, and who signs the contracts? These are all key qualification criteria to advance a deal to the next stage of the process. Salespeople often get caught selling to junior stakeholders who do not have authority – this can be time-consuming and, ultimately, ineffective. For the HeadBox sales team, it is essential to understand who will be making the decision and create the opportunity to build value (or “sell”) to that person.
Needs – What are the pain points being faced by the buyer? There are many techniques to uncover a person’s needs, indeed, this is the bread and butter, the meat and chips, of the qualification. At HeadBox we employ qualification funnels and Socratic questions to identify the key pain points a customer may have. It is these pain points we will use to match our product to the customers needs and build the value of our solution.
Timeline – When does the buyer need the solution to be in place? This timeframe must be based on the buyer’s timeline and not on the seller’s timeline. You can identify this through an understanding of the buyer’s needs which are often time-sensitive – the customer will likely have time-bound commercial targets – and working back from there:
Buyer’s target > timeframe for your solution to deliver that result > set up time > contract review and signature > decision date > next step. This should be a collaborative process which is mutually agreed by both parties.
Understanding the full BANT of a deal will allow your sales team to accurately forecast the value and close date of a deal. It will also ensure you can effectively and efficiently hand over to other areas of the business (in this case Customer Success and Account Management) in order to ensure that onboarding is completed in line with the buyer’s needs and commercial targets. A win-win situation.
This methodology includes all of the core information gathered through BANT while adding further detail on the “Metrics” and “Criteria” of the decision as well as the buyer “Champion” who will help to sell your solution from within. A powerful tool for selling.
Metrics – This involves understanding how the buyer is going to measure the outcomes that you deliver. For example, HeadBox Business delivers cost savings, so a metric in the decision might be the $dollar$ savings value that HeadBox Business delivers in comparison to a competitor. Understanding how a buyer is measuring your solution allows you to present your solution in a relevant way.
An example I often use with my team is, if when buying a car my main aim is to reduce my carbon footprint, I wouldn’t be hugely impressed by a car salesman talking to me about the top speed of a diesel car. I’d be much more likely to buy if the salesperson talked about the mileage of the same car’s hybrid lithium batteries. The point is to talk about and present the metrics the buyer is interested in.
Economic Buyer – This is the person who holds the budget and who signs the contract (it may well be two different people). As I mentioned above, salespeople often spend a lot of time building value to the wrong people within an organisation. Understanding who is the ultimate decision-maker allows you to map out how you are going to reach that person and who needs to be brought into the process (and have the value built to) in order to get there.
Decision Criteria – What are the must-haves for this decision. The way I explain this is by comparing it to a job spec. If you looked at the requirements of a specific role and could not do half of the tasks listed then you wouldn’t apply for the role. On the other hand, if you could do all of the tasks and more then you would submit an application. This is the same when selling, you need to identify what the customer needs and whether you can meet those needs. If you can, great. If you cannot, then move on to the next opportunity.
Decision Process – What are the steps the buyer is going to take in order to make this decision? What information do they need to share internally, who needs to see a demo, what are the InfoSec and Supplier questionnaire steps to take, and how long will each of these steps (and the entire process) take? As always, the seller must fit their sales process around the timelines of the buyer.
Identify Pain Points – As with the “Needs” of BANT, a salesperson will employ questioning funnels and Socratic questions to understand the priority needs of a customer in order to understand how the HeadBox solution can meet these needs.
Champion – Last but by no means least. Identifying the person on the buyer side who will be your internal champion. This is someone who will “sell” for you, ensuring that the process is driven forward and that all of the necessary people are in the right meetings to help move things forward. An internal champion will make life significantly easier for you and will also help with the adoption and onboarding of your solution.
To use a sporting example, during extra time in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final, Matt Dawson manoeuvred the England pack into position, made a break to get closer to the posts, then passed the ball to Jonny Wilkinson who drop-kicked the ball over the posts to win the game and bring the World Cup home. Matt Dawson is the “Champion”, making sure the deal is in the right place to close, while Jonny Wilkinson is the “Economic Buyer”, signing the contract and paying the invoice for the contract. Invest time in finding, educating and engaging your Matt Dawson. It could be the difference between landing the silverware or going home empty-handed.
A final thought – salespeople are often reluctant to qualify senior stakeholders, apparently fearful of “wasting their time”. I have seen this in all of the sales teams I have been involved in. It is important to emphasise the importance of qualification to these salespeople. To do this I try to anchor qualification in their day to day life. A favourite example of mine is ordering pizza on a Sunday afternoon (something I am quietly confident they can all relate to…). When I call a pizza shop I have no problem with them qualifying my needs – size, flavour, sides, drinks, delivery address, payment method – because I want to make sure their solution (pepperoni stuffed crust pizza) meets my needs (hunger). It’s no different when selling software to senior stakeholders, ask them what they need and then provide it for them.
As always, this is not the only way to qualify, these are simply some suggestions that have helped us find the right information for HeadBox. I hope some of the above is helpful in some way to your team or business and that you qualify some killer deals.