There is no question that the qualification and discovery stages are important steps in the sales process. The reality is, they are more than just check boxes in the pre-sales process. If these steps are not done correctly, major complications may occur in scoping the project and implementation.
So how do sales organizations ensure a smooth process that starts with the salesperson and flows through the proposal, into operations, and eventually implementation?
First, let’s remember why the qualification and discovery stages are so important:
- Get to the meat of the customer issues
- Ensures you’re presenting the right solution offer
- Ensures that this opportunity is a good fit
- Ability to echo back discovery findings to the customer
- Convey customer issues to engineering, implementation, etc.
- Ability to target specific “hot spots” for the Statement of Work
Is the Prospect Ready to Move Forward?
Whether salespeople want to admit it or not (or even realize it), one of the most important conversations they have with prospects is the discovery call. This interaction uncovers whether the prospect and the product or service are a good fit, determines if there is a path forward, and sets the tone for the operations team and the post-sales process.
This unfolds in two steps:
1. Qualification – In the first step of the pre-sales process, it must be decided if the prospect is a good fit and should be pursued. Some of the questions that might need to be answered include…
- Is the prospect the right size?
- Is it the right type of company?
- Are they looking to purchase a solution or product?
- Can our solutions or services add value for the customer?
2. Discovery – With some qualification built-in, discovery is more about how the product or solution will fit with the prospect, and often relies on the technical knowledge of a sales engineer. In this phase, the salesperson will gather data to ascertain the customer environment and validate the qualification process to understand if the prospect is ready to move forward. Some of the questions that might need to be answered include…
- What is the current technical environment?
- What are the pain points that the solution must resolve?
- What needs to be accomplished?
The Dangers of Not Completing Qualification and Discovery
While every sales organization does qualification and discovery to a certain extent, we’d go out on a limb and say most are not doing it well. For salespeople, it seems like wasted time when all they want is the sale, while management is on the other end demanding more information in fear of scope creep. However, the lack of compliance can’t all be blamed on laziness. It’s a problem of instilling the value of building an arsenal of actionable data. It must be based on a predefined set of questions to avoid misunderstandings after the sale and the inevitable change orders that erode margins.
If a salesperson has all the correct questions to ask, but omits asking them in the initial discussions, problems can occur later on in the sale process.
Take for example what can happen if questions about the customer’s network aren’t raised. Imagine a network issue is uncovered during the implementation process because a network assessment wasn’t completed. The salesperson might want to point fingers and say it’s an implementation problem, when in fact it was a gap in knowledge of the existing components. Instead of requiring a network assessment or divulging the network requirements of the solution, the salesperson assumed the responsibility was with the operations team.
If proper discovery had occurred, it would have been clear from the beginning that the solution wasn’t the right fit or the network required improvements as part of the implementation. In situations like these, sales is stuck with either charging the customer more via change orders to fix the underlying issues (which the customer won’t feel responsible for), taking a hit to the project’s profit margin, or reworking the scope of work (SOW).
Informal Processes Are Not Effective
An informal qualification process that only includes a handful of key questions to determine if the prospect is a good fit and a set of forms for detailed discovery are not effective. These hard to follow and mundane processes aren’t just difficult for the sales organization; it also reduces satisfaction as the customer journeys through the sales process. Automation of the sales stages also helps ramp up new salespeople more quickly.
Processes that include automation and enforcement mean that qualification and discovery are streamlined and made consistent so nothing is forgotten or assumed to be someone else’s responsibility.
Automation takes the information gathered and brings a heightened level of detail to the SOW and executive summary, demonstrating a competence and attention to detail on behalf of the salesperson to the customer. Through these improvements, sales can minimize margin-eating scope creep that results from assumptions about the work to be provided.
To avoid these pitfalls and begin creating more accurate and streamlined proposals, sales team members and management, working as a team, should consider implementing a continuous improvement loop. At the end of a project, ask “What did we give away because we didn’t properly define the scope of work?” By conducting a post-project review, teams can gather to gauge customer satisfaction and take steps to address any identified issues. Additional questions to pose include:
- Which processes need to be improved?
- What other questions could help us avoid these issues in the future?
- How do we set customer expectations to lead to better customer satisfaction?
Automation Leaves No Details Behind
CorsPro’s SalesDoc Architect provides the automation that is necessary to deliver detailed proposals and SOWs that are tailored to the customer’s needs and avoid any ambiguity that could lead to scope creep. By automating the process of surveying prospects and enforcing each step in qualification and discovery, salespeople won’t be able to leapfrog the sales pipeline. Instead, they will begin closing more deals because of concise proposals that fully align with customer pain points. More specifically, SalesDoc Architect:
- Ensures you’re pursuing the right opportunity
- Allows you to configure the correct solution
- Auto-configures the products and services, along with the SOW language
- Leverages information like descriptions of pain points and areas of need
Since SalesDoc Architect is built on Microsoft Excel, formulas are used to drive the automation process. This means that during qualification and discovery, the important details can’t slip by as initial answers lead to more in-depth questions that help to flesh out the scope of a project. Plus the information you gathered can be used in other outputs like emails to customers, proposals, executive summaries, etc.
Want to learn more? Check out our latest eBook, “Know What to Ask When – A guide to creating your solution to meet customers’ needs.”