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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Was the Prospect Unqualified? Or Was the Salesperson Unqualified?

IWas_the_Prospect_Unqualified_Or_Was_the_Salesperson_Unqualifiedn our report, released in December, The Biggest Challenges of Media Salespeople and Sales Managers, we reported that finding enough qualified prospects ranked a solid #2 finisher among sales managers. In our summary of the findings, we pointed to the irony that there are more potential clients out there than ever before, and with competition bloodier, more need for marketing services of nearly every type. And yet, qualified prospects are hard to identify.

We described the structural problem, still common at media properties, of expecting salespeople to find their own leads, or put another way, of expecting salespeople to be their own marketers. It’s not a role they relish, it’s not a task they’re especially well built to handle, and it’s not a smart decision by management to expect them to shoulder it or succeed at it. As we wrote, highly talented salespeople want the Glengarry leadsand savvy managers want to provide them.

But let’s not let salespeople off the hook too easily. Just as finding enough qualified prospects ranked a solid #2 among managers, so too did it rank #2 in our survey of salespeople. Having shown how management contributes to the problem by having an ineffective structure and inappropriate expectations, let’s now consider how salespeople contribute to the problem. 

When the salesperson is unable to schedule an initial appointment, is that evidence of an unqualified prospect? Maybe. 

When the seller gets one meeting, but is unable to get a second audience with that prospect, is that evidence of an unqualified prospect? Again, maybe. 

Regardless of where along the way the sales process petered out, was it because the prospect was unqualified? That’s often how the salesperson will characterize a failed effort. After all, most sellers blame the prospect for not buying; few stand up and say “I failed.” But you know better: When the sale doesn’t happen, it was in many cases a fine prospect that was poorly approached or poorly developed. In other words, a sales problem, not a marketing problem.

Weak selling skills impact Sales Challenge #2 in three ways:

  • They burn prospects that someone with better skills might have closed.
  • They chew up the salesperson’s time, with no revenue to show for it.
  • They cause the salesperson to need more prospects than would otherwise be the case.

Sales managers—and CEOs!—should stop to consider each of those three bullet points and start doing some back-of-the-envelope arithmetic to determine how those factors impact their revenue lines and their expense lines. It won’t be a pleasant experience, but it will be valuable.

There are lots of prospects out there. But there are only so many that are right for your media property, right now… only so many that are truly Glengarry leads. A highly talented, highly skilled, well-resourced salesperson needs fewer of them. And the sales organization, in turn, needs fewer salespeople when each one is blessed with sales talent, strong skills, and the right resources. Yes, finding enough qualified prospects truly is a challenge, but managers should not be so blinded by it that they fail to recognize other explanations for falling short of revenue goals. When salespeople are highly talented, highly skilled, and appropriately supported, the bottom line benefits big-time.

Read everything we found out by downloading our free eBook titled "The Biggest Challenges of Media Salespeople and Sales Managers" today.

Sales Department Challenges for 2014