Lately, I’ve been thinking about how product limitations influence the sales process.

When I was taught storage sales, years ago, I had a “qualification process”, based on IBM’s BANT, drummed into my head.

  • Is the prospect a decision-maker?
  • Does the prospect have budget?
  • Is their timeframe realistic?
  • What does the prospect need?

But there was a missing piece.

If someone called us, closing the sale was our main priority. We were paid to sell product, and in theory, help customers.

Sometimes, the qualification process uncovered a prospect who ticked all the boxes — budget, authority, need, and timeline were a perfect fit for what we could offer. Job done, success delivered, happiness ensued.

Other times, the qualification process let us see that the prospect wasn’t a good fit.. Perhaps he wanted a $100,000 product for $10,000, or she was just investigating options, or perhaps we didn’t have the right product.

These situations were black and white. But what about the grey areas? Budget, authority, timeline issues could often be overcome. But many times, we struggled because our offerings weren’t a great fit. What we had to offer was only partially right. We could only partially meet their need.

This isn’t unusual. Most sales organizations “sell what’s on the truck,” so to speak, because that’s their only opportunity to make money and keep the company going.

In the bad old days, before social media, selling products that were an “okay fit” had major short term benefits and minor long term downside. But today, when one customer letter can start an avalanche of viral complaint, you must make sure your product is a great fit, not just an okay one.

How do you do that? Maybe there’s wisdom in teaching your sales force that qualification isn’t the answer.

Your sales force are trained to qualify and disqualify people. Is there wisdom in teaching them to be biased toward disqualification?

After all, you’re seeking customers who are raving enthusiasts for what you do. What would you rather have?

  • A 30% market share made up of mildly disgruntled customers who will bail on you, and your products, as soon as it makes sense, because what you sold wasn’t exactly right?
  • Or a smaller bunch of enthusiastic, committed, engaged advocates who will buy, and buy again, and buy a third time, sticking with you through thick and thin because you always keep their interests in mind?

You will always have customers who aren’t happy, unfortunately. But does it make sense to consciously train your sales force to carefully pick their customers, with an eye toward establishing long term, enthusiastic, positive relationships?

  • So is there wisdom in raising the bar?
  • In being skeptical that a prospect will be a good customer?
  • In training your sales force to know best fit, good fit, and no fit at all?
  • In training your sales force to be really honest about capabilities and building incentives to keep them honest?
  • In disqualifying a prospect who can’t be thrilled?