An Argument Against “Qualification”


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At the beginning of a recent Slow Down, Sell Faster sales seminar, I asked each participant “What is your #1 goal for this session?” Several stated that their biggest challenge is how to get past a low-level relationship and reach decision makers with more money, authority and need.

Later that day, when we arrived at the “C-Level Prospecting” skills module, I asked them, “When you call a prospect on the phone, what do you say?”

Almost uniformly, the answer was, “The first thing I do is qualify him/her by asking, ‘Do you make the decisions on products such as X?’ If the prospect answers ‘Yes’ then I try to persuade him or her to agree to a face-to-face appointment.”

My challenge to the participants was this: If you want to form multiple relationships within an account why are you being so choosy about the first prospect with whom you meet? If your ultimate goal is multiple relationships, why not pursue that goal from the very beginning?

In most sales situations, qualification is not only obnoxious and self-serving, but also sure to raise the hackles of the person you’re talking to. If they are the decision maker you’re trying to reach, what are the odds they’ll admit that fact to someone whose only interest is in selling them something? And the outcomes aren’t any better if they aren’t the decision. They’ll either say “no” and hang up, or, if they are gatekeeper whose responsibility is to keep salespeople away from an executive, they’ll say “yes” even though it isn’t true. None of these situations is ideal.

If you want to get more appointments and build more relationships, do your homework before making the call, then sell the appointment right from the start, no matter who you’re talking to. Even if they aren’t the ultimate decision maker, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the company’s needs, and odds are they can put you in touch with the person who is the decision maker.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kevin Davis
Kevin Davis is the president of TopLine Leadership, which provides sales training and sales management leadership training programs to companies from diverse sectors. Kevin is the author of "Slow Down, Sell Faster! : Understand Your Customer's Buying Process & Maximize Your Sales". For more information visit


  1. Kevin: you’ve made some great points. But had your blog been titled The Case against Bad Questions, I could understand them a little better. I agree–asking “Do you make the decisions on products such as X?” sounds lame and over-worn, particularly when it’s not surrounded with any context. In certain situations, though, the question might not be a bad one, so it’s hard to judge based on the question alone.

    What I think you’re co-mingling is comparing a salesperson’s natural instinct to vet opportunities based on value potential, and building relationships. For selling, both are important, and they are not mutually exclusive. Sure, it’s not necessarily good to discard holding a discussion because someone fails to anoint themselves as a “decision maker” (however defined), but it’s the question (or the timing of it) that seems poor. Not the reasons for it.

    The best salespeople I know are excellent networkers, both inside and outside the spheres of their industries. Many–although certainly not all–are known within their communities and other networks. At the same time, they are businesspeople with limited resources, so it’s not only understandable, but expected, that they will apply rigor to where to invest time and money. Prospective clients understand this–after all, they’re in business as well, and when it comes to buying products and services, their objectives are congruent.

    Whether it’s called ‘qualification,’ ‘risk assessment,’ or ‘lead scoring,’ the issue has more to do with how it’s done, and less about the fact that it’s done at all.


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