B2B Selling process is the subject of countless books, yet basic qualification of opportunities is still problematic. As a result, precious marketing, technical and sales resources are wasted on weeks and months-long evaluations for prospects who will never buy. What if your sales team was 90% accurate in qualifying prospects, what would that do for your win-rate and forecasting accuracy?
Win rates are stuck at around 47% according to a 2019 CSO Insights survey and have been so for about 10 years. This means salespeople are going the distance and losing in a majority of the opportunities forecast. This is a crisis in sales qualification that needs urgent attention in a market about to turn sharply down, where valuable resources cannot be wasted.
In their 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report, the chart shown below on win-rates of forecast deals indicates that not much has changed in the past 5-10 years. Win rates are stuck at around 47%. No decisions have fallen by about 4%, while competitive losses have increased by the same amount.
Anything we can do to reduce the impact of going the distance in a deal and ending in a loss or no-decision outcome is worthwhile and an imperative for sales leaders.
B2B selling process has been well documented in countless books. One of the best I’ve read in 20 years is Mike Bosworth’s “Customer Centric Selling”. There is one technique in the book that I have used successfully for nearly 20 years and we have integrated it into Enableocity’s Qualification Workshop process. It’s called Qualification Confirmation and I recommend using it.
The Meeting Summary Letter, or Qualification Confirmation letter as it is referred to in the book, is one of the most valuable process steps in the tool-bag for sales professionals selling in the B2B technology space. Like many sales tools, this isn't rocket science, just better process.
One small addition to my follow-up letters has made a huge difference in forecasting, by eliminating opportunities where a no-decision or loss is a likely outcome. Without getting the buyer’s confirmation of mutual understanding of the substance discussed in the meeting and confirming buyer commitment to next steps, a deal is not qualified and effectively the sales person has no control without it.
Regardless of your sales method, if you add this simple technique to your system, you can expect your win-rates of forecast opportunities to improve by eliminating 95% of no-decision deal outcomes. An interested buyer will agree to review your meeting summary with you by email or on the phone. A best-practice is to set a brief followup meeting before you leave your initial meeting to review and agree or edit your letter and confirm agreed next steps within a few days of the meeting.
When the Buyer goes Radio Silent
When the buyer fails to attend the meeting you agreed on to review the letter and goes radio-silent and does not respond to email or phone calls, there is little chance of an outcome and the deal is not qualified. A deal should never enter the forecast until this critical first pipeline milestone occurs.
I have been using meeting summaries since I first read the book, (a long time ago) and adding this simple followup and agreement step has them much more powerful.
Meeting Summary Structure
The structure of the Meeting Summary letter we use at Enableocity is as follows:
Current Situation + Drivers a summary of the buyer's current environment and frames the driver issues they want to discuss.
Vision - (Future State)
Impact - (The value to the organization of changing)
Decision Process, Criteria, Budget and Timeframe - (Sets out criteria for evaluation and decision, how they make decisions, how they will fund and buy your solution and a timeframe you can both work toward)
Next Steps - (This is where you nail down who's doing what and ask for introductions to key decision makers involved). The following phrase is the key "please confirm you are in agreement with my summary of our meeting."
The letter should close the buyer with a commitment to a phone-call or in-person meeting to review the letter and discuss any variance or next steps within 7 days. If the buyer does not confirm or correct your understanding in the letter, you don't have a deal. No interest = no deal and you have to go back and find out what you missed.
Summary and Take-aways
- Use a Meeting Summary after every meaningful meeting with a buyer to confirm qualification and next steps...this could mean you iterate a few letters in a large transaction, so you need well written proforma’s loaded in your CRM tool that you can quickly customize.
- The meeting summary, if well written, can serve as a selling vehicle for you inside the buying organization.
- The meeting summary is particularly useful in overcoming weak mentors in the buying process and gaining access to a champion or decision makers.
- Death and taxes are the only certainties in life, and while this method is not fool-proof, if you implement Qualification Confirmation in addition to your current process, it will improve your qualification and win-rate of forecast deals.
- Effective qualification will give you more time to work on deals that will close and that will improve your sales results as well as improving forecasting accuracy.