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  • Writer's pictureNadav Efraty

Chapter 7 - The Sales Qualification Methodology

Engineers are taught to look for the weaknesses and breakpoints in their work. Sellers tend to be optimistic and focus on good potential outcomes. While there are clear psychological as well as job security reasons for that bias, ungrounded optimism is counterproductive at the sellers and the sales organization levels. 

At the early stages of the sale the focus of the seller is on the positive side - why would the buyer buy. As the process progresses, the focus should turn from the why yes to the why not – why would the deal not happen. The sellers must actively qualify and proactively look for yellow and red flags. Yellow flags are indications that there are weaknesses that should be addressed in order to keep the deal from derailing. Red flags are indications that the deal is not really likely to happen, in this case, forecasting based on that deal and any further investment of effort would be futile unless something dramatically changes.  

The common qualification frameworks are:

  1. MEDDICC – which stands for Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Process, Decision Criteria, Identify / Implicate Pain, Champion, Competition. There’s also MEDDPICC with that added P that stands for Paper Process. 

  2. BANT - which stands for Budget, Authority, Need, Time.

  3. SPIN - which stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, Need Payoff.

  4. SPICeD - which stands for Situation, Pain, Impact, Compelling event, Decision. 

  5. The Sandler Submarine which refers to Pain, Budget and Decision (in addition to some non qualifying stages before and after).

  6. ORDER – which stands for Opportunity, Resources, Decisions, Exact solution, Results. Presented in the book Let’s get real or let’s not play, which is recommended. 

More about any of those qualification schemes can be found online. 

Both MEDDICC, SPIN, SPICeD and ORDER are similar in their focus on the status quo, pains, decision making, impact and thus suitable for value sales, but MEDDICC is the most detailed and is the most widely used, by far. We estimate that over 80% of the SaaS Sales organization that we meet using or at least trying to promote MEDDICC with their reps. 

BANT and Sandler are more basic and are often used by more traditional or less mature sales organizations as well as for transactional and smaller fast paced deals. Unlike the other schemes, they highlight the budget. Note that in modern value sales, it is not recommended to discuss budget before the business impact of the offering is understood. The value seller wants to focus on the buyer’s pains and the impact and only them bring up the pricing. When value sellers are forced to discuss budget too early in the sales process, they typically offer a wide budgetary range. On the other hand, inquiring if a budget is available for a certain purpose is legitimate and can indicate about the maturity of the buyer’s decision, but should only brought up if there are other reasons to believe that the buyer is already advanced in its buying journey. In commoditized and transactional, unlike value sales, validating the budget at beginning is required as the seller should no pursue an opportunity unless it is already in the budget. 

Most sales organizations that use MEDDICC typically implement it in their CRM or in worksheets either as a single text filed per letter or as checkbox per letter or as multiple qualifiers that are either presented as a list under the relevant letter or that are implicitly spread between the sales stages and activities.  An example to such qualifiers that could be implemented as a list under each letter (C in this case) are Potential champion has tactical ownership on the status quo and pain; Potential champion has access and influence on the Economic Buyer and the stakeholders; Potential champion has a recognized personal win; Champion identified and gives access to the Economic Buyers; Champion shares the competition and internal politics; Champion is selling for us internally; Champion is coaching and removing roadblocks etc. all of which are rolled up into the Champion indicator.

The qualification is not about doing activities and checking boxes – it is not a task list - it is about the answers that are received, that are meant to identify the weakness in an opportunity. There should be no expectations that all the MEDDICC letter will be green – in most cases a deal would have weakness and the whole idea is to uncover them, not just get to green. Bringing every opportunity to all green MEDDICC is impossible and completely defeat the entire purpose. 

Typically, these qualification methodologies should be completed around the middle of the sales process – when all the elements that have been uncovered earlier in the process by the seller are validated by the Economic Buyer. The exception is the Paper Process in MEDDPICC which is designed to cover the tail of the process, after the Economic Buyer decision to proceed with the purchase. However, sales organizations that have a relatively high percentage of opportunities that are stapled or lost at the late stages of the pipeline should add multiple additional late stage qualifiers that could cover the budget status, approval status, late hurdles and obstacles and more. While those latter qualifiers are not part of the traditional qualification frameworks, they may be critical in order to uncover additional sets of weaknesses, close better, and improve forecasting. 

Most sales organizations have sales stages and defined activities in each stage. Some of those may be real activities (e.g. meet the prospect, prepare the POV deck etc.) while others may be qualifiers (e.g. champion identified, budget availability confirmed) and may implicitly or explicitly include references to one of qualification methodologies. 

More advanced sales organizations explicitly add text fields to the CRM that are associated with each of the MEDDICC letters, where they expect their reps to describe the status of each letter.

However, while qualification should be important to the sellers themselves as it help them drive and manage the opportunities, guide their champions, avoid pitfalls and  increases their chances of winning, and while sales organization invest in endless qualification enablement, most sales organization struggle to drive adoption and usage, which leads to significant productivity loss and forecasting glitches.

The main reasons have to do with the sellers feeling that they already know the status, so writing long stories in the CRM for the sake of the big brother is not helping them sell. Sometimes some sellers even prefer vagueness over clarity for job security reasons. Many frontline leaders share that feeling – the stories in the CRM are not directly translated into scores, go/no-go and forecasting decisions which they need to fill manually in different places, so the long texts don’t help them either. 

To make this work, organizations should implement modern solutions that guide, automate and enable the sellers so they can get the productivity benefit of stronger qualification without the add labor, and managers could automatically get meaningful metrics and reports instead of stories so they can manage the pipeline and coach the sellers at a much higher level at far less effort. 

Another big barrier to adoption is that while the qualification frameworks call for the qualification of the status quo and the pains, the decision process, criteria and the metrics etc., they never explicitly detail HOW to uncover all of those things - which questions should to be asked in every different situation, how should the business case and ROI be calculated etc. For that, sales organizations typically have one playbook for the prospecting, another playbook for the sales stages and activities (of every different sales motion), another for the qualification framework, another for the discovery questions for the pain and drivers and impact, another for the business case analysis, another for the competitive positioning, and if you have multiple offerings and use cases, those playbooks start to multiply and grow VERY thick. All of this complexity requires endless enablement and assets from product and marketing etc., but even then, it is just too overwhelming for the average rep who sits in front of the buyer and has to navigate all those playbooks while focusing on the buyer and staying in the conversation… The more you build, the more overwhelmed the sellers become, and the less likely they are to adopt and use any of that. The less you build, the less likely you are to effectively sell in the various different situations that the reps will encounter. The solution? Intelligent playbooks that guide, enable and automate everything for the sellers.

Different sales motions call for different qualification schemes - transactional deals should be low touch for both seller and buyer, so if the seller would try to force an enterprise sales qualification process this will likely upset buyers and kill many opportunities. On the other hand, trying to win complex enterprise deals with a light transactional approach will drive terrible results. Similarly, selling through channels would have its own unique characteristics given that the seller needs to drive the deal without being in direct touch with the buyers (champion, stakeholders, Economic Buyer), so some of the qualifiers become irrelevant while others remain critical.  

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