Software Executive Magazine

August/September 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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helps you understand up front how to position your company, promote its value, how likely you are to win the business, and if the competing products are compa- rable to yours. Consider the price of your competitors' products. If you know their price point is vastly lower than yours, then perhaps this is not business that you should try to compete for. Also, find out the solution they currently have installed and what they like and do not like about it. And don't forget that sometimes, when all is said and done, your prospect may decide to build its own solution. ALL-OR-NOTHING APPROACH These questions and, more importantly, their answers will provide you with the insight you need to make an intelligent decision on whether you should invest your time in pursuing the lead – so work to get all the above questions answered. If your prospect cannot answer any or most of these questions, you are wasting your (and the company's) time. At a fundamental level, this is time management – putting a laser focus on those endeavors which will yield the most return. BEST PRACTICES Since your goal is to solicit answers, a best practice when asking these qualification questions is to avoid the interrogation approach and instead pepper your ques- tions naturally into conversations. Not only does this make prospects feel more comfortable, but it demon- strates you're interested and that you care, which helps establish a rapport and a relationship. Let them know you are trying to assess the probability of your solution being a good fit for them, and that their time is valuable, and you don't want to waste their time evaluating a solu- tion that ultimately will not meet their needs, be within their budget, or deliverable within the time frame they require it to be. Remember to be honest and genuine. Approach each lead as a business opportunity for both parties. It's just as important for you to qualify a lead as it is for the prospect to be qualified by you. At the end of the day, it comes down to optimizing time and resourc- es for both you and your prospect. Both parties will be more productive because of it. S have put a plan in place for making a decision. Ask them things like: What is their process? Will they go to RFP? Is there a team of people or just one individual making the deci- sion? What are their titles/roles? What things will affect their decision? If they haven't determined a date and have not put an internal decision plan in place, this is not a good sign. QUESTION #4 - WHAT IS DRIVING THE DECISION FOR A NEW PRODUCT? Knowing which key factors are driving a purchase de- cision is critical. Ask your prospect why they are look- ing to purchase a new product. Later in the sales cycle, you will be finding out what is working and not working with their current solution, so that you can best position your product. But in the initial qualifying phase, it's im- portant to know if they are casually looking to see what else is out there, or if there is an event that is driving the decision, such as their existing product's support is about to expire. If the answer is the latter, it's a high probability they will be purchasing a new solution. QUESTION #5 - WHEN ARE THEY PLANNING TO IMPLEMENT? Question #3 asked when they would make a decision. But you also need to know when they plan to imple- ment. Software can have long lead times in terms of in- stallation and configuration. It's important to know be- cause they will likely be dependent on you for resources to install and support their solution. Knowing that you have resources available to meet their planned timeline is critical. If you cannot make resources available to them, and if their implementation date is not flexible, then it's a waste to spend time on a sales cycle that has no realistic delivery. QUESTION #6 - WHO ARE THE DECISION MAKERS (AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, ARE YOU WORKING WITH THEM)? Knowing who the decision maker is and making sure that you are working with that person, or as close to that person as you are allowed, is critical – especially during the qualification process. Obtaining answers from the key decision maker qualifies your opportunity at a high- er level. It's also important to know if the decision will be made by a single person or a team. If it's a group of people, learn their titles, roles, what's at stake, and de- cision influencers. I've been in sales situations where I was working with the key decision maker, but an influ- encer (like an IT manager) felt threatened by the idea of new technology and tried to affect the decision. QUESTION #7 - WHAT OTHER PRODUCTS ARE THEY EVALUATING? Know which companies you're competing against. This R A C H E L S M I T H has 20+ years of experience in business development, building sales channels, forming strategic alliances, and securing product development projects in the hospitality and retail technology industries. Smith is the VP of Sales for Retail Realm, a multinational, retail-centric software development company. 35 SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017

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