Sales and Sales Management Blog

June 3, 2011

Hey, Now, Just Who’s Qualifying Whom Here?

Recently I wrote an article titled “How to Take the Sting Out of the Price Question Early in the Sale.”  In the course of the article I argued that it is natural for a prospect to ask about price–and often to do so too early in the sale, before the seller has had an opportunity to create real value for the prospect—because price is one of the factors prospects use as they seek to qualify the seller and the purchasing opportunity.

In response to that article I received numerous emails and comments from salespeople and sales leaders that they had never thought about the idea that the prospect is qualifying them and their offering at the same time they are trying to qualify the prospect.

Yet the prospect’s qualifying the seller and the seller’s value/solution is the crux of the whole sales process.

We are all familiar with the concepts of qualifying the prospect, investigating needs, developing a solution and creating real value for the prospect, overcoming objections, and the other aspects of making a sale.  All of these concepts are views of the sales process from the seller’s perspective.  These are the constructs that we as sellers tend to concentrate on.

We then view the prospect’s questions as either worrisome objections that are nothing but a smokescreen or are out-n-out buying signals.  For many of us, the questions and actions of the prospect are either those of an enemy or those of someone telling us they are ready to buy.

What if neither of those choices is true?

What if all of those questions and the statements by the prospect, instead of being obstacles to our sale or indications of their desire to consummate the purchase, are simply questions and statements to help them qualify us and our offering? 

What if they are doing the same to us as we are doing to them?

If that is the case, then that means we’re neither dealing with an enemy to be overcome nor are we dealing with someone asking us to close them.  Instead we’re dealing with a human being who wants to know whether or not we’re trustworthy, whether or not our offering is appropriate for them, whether or not we’re wasting their time.

In other words, they are in the process of qualifying us just as much as we’re qualifying them.  When we qualify a prospect we ask questions and probe to discover who we’re dealing with and what we might be able to do for them.  When we’re asking questions we’re not trying to play the ‘gotcha’ game.  Most of us aren’t trying to trap them into a sale.  We’re honestly seeking information that allows us to know whether or not we are in front of a real prospect with a real need that we can help solve in a way that produces real value for them.

The prospect is going through the same process with us.  Whether they are conscious of it or not, they’re trying to determine whether or not we are someone they want to do business with and then, whether or not our product/service/company presents any real solid worthwhile value for them.

The traditional terms sellers think in—overcoming objections, closing the sale, etc.—tend to set up an adversarial relationship where we are on the lookout for the dreaded objection and the opportunity to pounce with the closing question.

However, if we recognize that the sales process involves both parties qualifying one another and that the qualifying process involves the investigation and questioning of each party, we can relax and begin to address the prospect’s questions for what they really are—a legitimate desire to find out who we are and whether or not we are someone they want to work with.

Go forth and qualify—and let yourself be qualified.  It’s a whole lot more fun to sell when you’re working with a prospect to mutually qualify one another than it is to try to out fox and overcome an adversary.



  1. From my perspective, if price comes up too early it usually suggests that the marketing has not been completed or executed flawlessly. If the first sales buying rule is people buy from people they know and trust, then it is quite logical that there is a mutually qualifying process happening from that first moment of attracting the buyer’s attention.I should not have been surprised to read about the comments from sales people who never considered they were being qualified.

    Now if price comes up again during the selling phase of the sales process, this potentially suggests that the value has not been agreed upon. Many sales people believe they sell “value” yet “value” is unique to each individual (sales buying rule #3) and until the salesperson knows with 100% confidence that agreement to his or her value has been reached through the eyes of the potential customer, price may surface as an objection. Unique value to the prospect is one reason why sales scripts may need to be more of a guide than an absolute.

    Comment by Leanne Hoagland-Smith — June 3, 2011 @ 10:43 am | Reply

  2. Paul, great post! I thinks this is in line with maintaining an attitude of empathy in negotiations with prospects. We think too much about our sales processes and too little about our customers’ buying processes. Objections should be treated for exactly what they are–the prospect qualifying us. If we are qualified sellers, we should have nothing to worry about.

    Comment by Doug Rice — June 3, 2011 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

  3. […] Who’s Qualifying Whom Here addthis_url = ''; addthis_title = 'Sales+Objections+%26%238211%3B+Are+They+Really+Objections+%3F'; addthis_pub = ''; […]

    Pingback by Sales Objections – Are They Really Objections ? |Sales Objections — June 14, 2011 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

  4. Yes Paul, it’s all a dialogue isn’t it ?

    Is there a match ? Can you work together ? Can you help them ? Is there a win-win ?

    I think that’s one of the reason cold calling was never daunting to me.
    I was just there to have a conversation and see if there was anything I could help them with.


    Comment by Greg Woodley — June 21, 2011 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

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