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You can’t win deals without ruthlessly qualifying opportunities.

As I’m working with my clients in sales training classes, lead qualification tends to pop up as a frequent area for improvement. They may have opportunities in the pipeline, even late-stage deals, that they expect to close. However, many of those opportunities seem to get stuck.

More often than not, the sales opportunities that languish weren’t well qualified in the first place, but were mistakenly identified as viable.

They aren’t alone. According to SPOTIO, 22% of sales people in a 2023 report say qualifying is the most challenging part of the sales process.

In this article, I’ll share strategies for qualifying opportunities and increasing your sales success.

sales worksheet qualifying opportunities

Sales Process and Methodology: Foundation for Qualifying Opportunities

First, let’s start by defining sales process and sales methodology. These two elements combine with your CRM to create the foundation for opportunity qualification and help you move opportunities through your pipeline more quickly.

  • Sales Process – Think of your sales process as a staircase. Steps you will take in moving an opportunity from start to finish. It might include identifying and qualifying an opportunity, conducting discovery conversations, developing your proposal, facilitating the presentation, handling any follow up, and ideally, closing. In some cases, you might also include a win/loss review, so you can take learnings and apply them to the next opportunity.
  • Sales Methodology – Think of your sales methodology as a chess match. These are your strategies, skills, tactics, and tools you use to move a relationship or opportunity forward.

The sales process, backed by a strong sales methodology, provides the structure and consistency to qualify opportunities and ultimately ignite your sales results.

Questions to Ask When You are Qualifying Opportunities

What goes into qualifying an opportunity? When you review your pipeline, you should see a good balance of opportunities that are early-stage, mid-stage, and late-stage.

One of the mistakes that I see most often is that sellers may assume they have late-stage opportunities that are going to close, but they actually haven’t been well-qualified.

Ask yourself the following nine questions to help create qualified leads:

  1. Do you know who the decision maker is? Have you met with the decision maker?
  2. Did you uncover the actual budget?
  3. Did you discuss finances early? (The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll know if it is a qualified lead.)
  4. Do you know the full decision-making process?
  5. Can you influence the decision-making process by having the right relationships and positioning yourself as a trusted advisor with the prospect or client?
  6. Did you avoid positioning solutions right away to first truly understand the client’s specific needs, values, and desired outcomes?
  7. Do you have healthy skepticism, and act as a devil’s advocate?
  8. Did you not allow a need to be liked to get in the way?
  9. Are you able to overcome self-limiting beliefs?

After you have answered these questions as part of your sales opportunity qualification process, it will be easier for you to know which prospects to prioritize and move forward with in your pipeline.

Categories for Qualifying Opportunities

Now let’s shift gears to review categories you can assess when you are qualifying opportunities. Take any opportunity in your pipeline and filter it through these qualification categories– the higher quality the opportunity, the higher you will rank that opportunity.

The seven categories are:

  1. People – High-impact relationships and decision makers.
  2. Client’s or prospect’s decision-making process – The more you understand about it, the better.
  3. Budget – What it is, where it is set aside, and who controls it?
  4. Timeline urgency – Is there a deadline?
  5. Compelling case for you and your organization – How important is this opportunity? How important is the client or the prospect? Should you prioritize this opportunity or another opportunity?
  6. Compelling case for customer – This ties back to urgency and deadline.
  7. Obstacles – What obstacles might get in the way of moving this opportunity through your sales process and achieving a win?

By taking these steps, you can qualify more leads and increase your chances of closing more, high-value deals.

Help Your Team Qualify Opportunities

Don’t let your competition get an advantage. We can help. If you want to know how to improve better qualify your opportunities, let’s talk about sales training. Contact us to schedule time for a discovery conversation with Amy.

This article was originally written in 2021 and updated in July 2023. 

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