Focus on How: Qualifying Intent

As you engage with clients throughout the sales cycle it is important to focus on intent:

What is the buyer’s intention? Are they window shopping? Are they looking to purchase?

Where are they in the buying process?

How can you proactively exceed their needs to close the sale and solve their problems?

While the best sales methodologies and account planning don’t always equal success – taking time to really focus on intent is essential to help drive deals forward.

Focusing on Intent is a constant throughout the sales cycle – it needs to happen in discovery, demoing/solution selling, closing. Focusing on intent ensures that you are actively listening to the customer and understanding their mindset at every step of the journey. This ensures that you can anticipate and help the client through proper objection handling, redirection, social proofing.

Focus on intent ensures that you aren’t shocked when you find out at the eleventh hour that the supposed DM you’ve been presenting too – is only a champion and is not planning to purchase until next year.

Here are some helpful tips I’ve learned from the field to empower you to focus on intent, which means more sales and better ROI for your clients

  1. Timeline and Budget: One area that is a thorn for sales professionals is forgetting to ask your clients ‘What is your Timeline for implementation’ and ‘What is your budget.’ This needs to happen on the first IQM (Initial Qualifying Meeting) and into Discovery. I recommend checking in through the sales cycle on timeline and holding the client accountable to their timeline.
  2. Focus on Required Capabilities
    • Be specific in finding out what capabilities are required for a client to sign off on your product. If there are gaps you cannot fill, would they be open to your product (i.e. you can recommend a partner to help with the gap or the primary problem you can fix is worth more than the lost capability). An example of getting a sale without full required capabilities is when I sold encrypted email. We could not fulfill one aspect of the automation they needed, but in digging into the pain of each requirement the fact we were HIPAA compliant was more important than anything. We could then speak to the value TRANSPARENTLY and be on the same page. You want to be upfront with required capabilities to ensure they get the product they need and you fulfilling that need with the sale.
  3. Get a Discovery Agreement
    • A Discovery Agreement is a written handshake of sorts that lays out all the required capabilities and expectations of the deal. A discovery agreement doesn’t equal full commitment but it holds you and the client accountable to close the deal. Example: If we can help you with HIPAA compliance and portal within your $10,000 budget with a timeline of May 15th then you will sign with us.
    • You can tweak the DA to fit the client and need, but having this in place is written proof and agreement on what guideposts were set. It holds everyone, especially the customer accountable.
    • Ex: Customer: I’m not interested because of the budget? Sales Professional: Well, I understand, but per our DA you said you could move forward if the required capabilities were met and your budget was $10,000. We are proposing $9,000. What has changed?
      • In this scenario the client is not being transparent or something changed internally. The intent is measured and actionable though, so even if they come back with ‘I thought we had that budget, but actually our CEO is not 100% sold on the product.’ You can then pivot and realign the focus to overcome the objection – which isn’t budget at all

4. Use Service Closes: When I did discovery and solution selling at my last job, before demoing the solution we would always ask:

  • If we can solve xyz needs within your budget today – are you willing to purchase (or move forward towards purchase). This is especially important in transactional selling(like a point solution – or even selling in person like a car or computer). It is also valuable in longer sales cycles. We need budget, but really our goal is to move the topic to value and business impact so the cost of product – is way less than the cost of doing nothing.
  • Tying down customer expectations with required capabilities/timeline/goals/ROI before even discussing pricing is a great way to move the sales conversation beyond dollars and cents towards real impact.
  • Do this right before going into pricing as well:
    • After solution demo – ‘Before we get into pricing, did our solution meet all the required capabilities we discussed at the beginning of the call?’ If they say ‘yes’ (it may not be a full yes, objections still arise) – then move on to pricing. If not, you can proactively objection handle before moving into the pricing conversation. So then clients don’t hide behind pricing as an objection when it is really functionality or unanswered questions about a product

5. Dig into pain

We don’t want our clients to suffer – drilling down into the business pain for pleasure – but we do want to make sure we are intention with understanding and speaking to the clients pain points. Often, clients (like ourselves) become numb to antiquated and cumbersome practices because we make do. So you need to help set the intention of how this causing problems for their business. REAL Problems, like lost time during repetitive tasks that could be automated or bottlenecks that hurt their internal business. As the client how removing those problems and pain – changes their outlook. What is their intent on the future vision.

Some clients will live and die by the status quo – but this is where you can be a true consultant – not a sales person but a business helper. I think of all the doctors offices that were wasting time and money with no EMR and e-file system. It cost them hours and they had to pay so much in ink and shredding costs. I genuinely wanted to help improve their business because I could imagine myself in their shoes and how tedious that was for staff and clients.

6. Be Transparent with your Intentions

Sales professionals get a bad wrap because of ‘used car snake oil’ approaches that focus on shady selling methods that leave the customer in a ditch.

You need to show you are a consultant and trusted advisor and this starts with authenticity and transparency. Tell the client what your next steps are and follow through. Be honest about your solution and any gaps that we might not fill. Instead focus on authentically selling how the value of your product can impact them. Be honest and hold yourself accountable to a timeline too.

Transparency can also mean being open that you respect the clients time and your time as well. You want this to be mutually beneficial -so it is okay to be graciously transparent when you are jumping through hoops of fire that aren’t going to move a stalled deal.

I hope these tips are helpful for you – I constantly have to remind myself of these guideposts. The more you put this into practice the more natural it becomes.

One thought on “Focus on How: Qualifying Intent

  1. Pingback: Focus on How: Preparation is Key | Adele Lassiter Coaching

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