Any sales manager worth their salt will only forecast a sale once they are satisfied it’s fully qualified. But what does that mean? Just what is ‘qualified’?

At its most basic level we’re taught a few simple acronyms. The first one I was taught was MANT.

MANT –  Money, Authority, Need, Timeframe. Absent anything more comprehensive, I suppose this is better than nothing. But if we rely on this as our forecasting checklist we will still come up short. These four areas are the macro picture; they are the very big qualification buckets. Inside each bucket are myriad more focused qualification criteria that vary by sales step and process stage.

Let’s take an example, Money. When I first started selling, and for years afterwards, I was satisfied with a simple yes to the question “Do they have budget?”. And I lost sales even though the answer was yes, as was the answer to the other three. If we dig deeper in the Money bucket we might create more revealing questions such as:

  • Has our project got a better ROI than our customer’s other investment choices?
  • Even though there is budget, do we meet or exceed our customer’s business case thresholds?
  • They may have budget allocated, but do they have cash-flow to actually spend this month/quarter/year?
  • Will our customer have payment terms that we will find acceptable?
  • Do they pay their bills?
  • Are they a good credit risk?
  • Etc etc etc

The answers to all of these questions needs to be yes for our sale to go through. But how often do we consciously ask them and what are the risks to our sale if we don’t? Indeed, when should we be asking and getting answers?

It soon becomes clear that the simple MANT is not enough. What is needed are more qualification bucket questions for each stage of our sale and a process to review and find weaknesses that we can address.

Some time ago I carried out an exercise to create a series of qualification checklists and found that the four simple MANT questions ballooned to over 300 stage specific questions. Extreme? Maybe. Paranoid? Possibly. Good sales hygiene? Absolutely!

The upshot of this is that whenever I review opportunities for a client, no matter how strong or experienced the sales person or manager, I ALWAYS find risks to a sale and the sales person I coach see enough exposure that they invariably decide to take action to manage the risks.

Only the qualified survive.

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