Posted by John Kleeman, Founder and Executive Director

One of the biggest challenges for any business is how to recruit and train its sales team and maintain its performance. For almost all businesses, sales are critical to business success. But recruiting the right salespeople and developing them to be successful for your organization is a significant challenge.

I like this quote from sales strategist and author, Jill Konrath: “Sales is an outcome, not a goal. It’s a function of doing numerous things right, starting from the moment you target a potential prospect until you finalize the deal.”

Many Questionmark customers use assessments to help manage their sales team. Commonly:

  • When a new product comes out, salespeople must take and pass a test on the product to check they know it. This helps win business because knowledgeable salespeople are more likely to identify needs from customers and help them find a solution if they know their products well.
  • In regulated industries like banking, insurance and pharmaceuticals, salespeople take periodic compliance tests to check they understand the regulatory rules around selling. This reduces mis-selling and gives evidence to regulators that the organization takes sales competence and its compliance activities seriously.
  • Organizations who sell via dealers or via a channel test or certify sales and technical support personnel within the channel to ensure people know the products well. Putting such tests in place reassures customers that the channel partners are authorized, increases the success of deployments and motivates channel partners to stay engaged.

One major challenge for business-to-business (B2B) sales teams is how to qualify sales opportunities well. Typically leads or opportunities are generated by prospecting or incoming enquiries and a salesperson must qualify the lead (identify how genuine it is) to see which opportunities are worth spending time on.

An opportunity is “qualified in” if it is progressed and “qualified out” if it is discarded or de-prioritized. You might think that it’s desirable to qualify in as many opportunities as possible, so that one has the best chance of closing as many sales as possible. But in fact, it’s the opposite. As James Barton’s white paper for the Mentor Group says: “Good salespeople qualify in, excellent salespeople qualify out”. There is a lot of evidence that if a salesperson qualifies in and progresses too many opportunities, his/her pipeline will look good and his/her activity levels will look good, but his/her sales results will be smaller. The best salespeople qualify out many leads and spend their time on the ones that they correctly identify will progress to a sale.

So, qualification skills are critical for B2B sales success – and lead to more accurate pipelines and sales predictions. Whereas organizations who suffer from unreliable sales forecasts with high pipelines that do not generate high enough sales often suffer from qualification skill weaknesses.

Questionmark, in conjunction with Mentor, have just released a test to help with this problem. It’s called “Questionmark B2B Sales Qualification by Mentor Group” and can be used with your existing sales team or with potential recruits to see whether salespeople are identifying and qualifying leads correctly. Using the test, you can identify which salespeople have good qualification skills and which ones need development to improve them. For example, here’s an example question from the test:

This question asks how the salesperson can identify whether their contact has authority to purchase. This is important because a deal is only going to close if the right people at the customer are involved. The best answer in the question above is the 3rd choice “Who else, if anybody, do you need to speak to, to get this signed off?”, because it gives the prospect the chance to share information about other people who are involved, to help the salesperson work the sale. The other choices are less effective, for example some of them are “closed” questions, when more open questions usually elicit better responses.

This test can help identify salespeople with good qualification skills and identify development opportunities for those who have less good skills. It can help a business identify good salespeople and develop existing salespeople. For more information, please contact us.

John is the Founder of Questionmark. He wrote the first version of the Questionmark assessment software system and then founded Questionmark in 1988 to market, develop and support it. John has been heavily involved in assessment software development for over 20 years and has also participated in several standards initiatives.