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Coach Your Sales Reps to Disqualify Bad Opportunities

Tom Williams headshot

Tom Williams
Head of DealPoint



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Photograph of two sales leaders at a whiteboard discussing how to coach reps
Photograph of two sales leaders at a whiteboard discussing how to coach reps

Sometimes, your rep didn’t lose the deal. There was no deal.

Bad opportunities in your sales pipelines are worse than no opportunity at all because they distract sales reps and divert resources from converting high-quality prospects.

That’s why successful sales leaders consider disqualifying prospects to be as important as, and maybe even more important than, finding qualified leads.

Why your sales reps should disqualify prospects

If your sales reps are chasing after prospects with a low probability of converting, they won’t have enough time and resources to compensate for the loss when deals fall through. Chances are they’ll miss their forecast and be unable to provide any warning to the rest of the company, which impacts the entire organization.

Chasing a poor opportunity isn’t just a waste of a sales rep’s time and effort. In later stages of a deal, many other departments are involved—weak prospects waste their time, too. Additional costs include diversion of resources and missing revenue targets, which impacts the company overall and individual stakeholders.

How to increase sales productivity by disqualifying bad prospects

To avoid the negative consequences of pursuing bad sales opportunities, take a proactive approach by coaching your sales team to effectively identify and disqualify (DQ) bad prospects. Key strategies include:

  • Look for buyer-centric signals. 

Waiting until prospects go dark isn’t a good strategy for proactively identifying low-quality leads in your pipeline. Instead, analyze past successful deals, identify their commonalities, and compare with a current healthy deal to see if it matches key criteria to flag a potential bad opportunity as early as possible.

  • Learn about the buyer team. 

Provide a checklist to show what sales reps should know about the buying team, business case, and buying process at each of the stages: discovery, analysis, and negotiation. If they can’t obtain the specific details at the end of each stage, the opportunity should be disqualified so resources can be redirected to refilling the pipeline.

  • Reduce risk for your sellers through a rubric. 

By sharing a team-wide rubric of what “qualified” means at each stage of an opportunity, you provide sales reps with a rationale to follow, making it less risky for them to disqualify leads.

  • Adjust management expectations. 

Manager expectations have a strong impact on how sales reps approach prospecting. If management focuses on a high coverage ratio pipeline, chock-full of opportunities, regardless of their quality, it will drive up the number of bad opportunities hanging in the pipeline.

On the other hand, if managers expect a perfect close rate, reps will be more aggressive in disqualifying The risk here though is that reps will throw the baby out with the bathwater and discard deals that might have been winnable if they put in the effort. Getting the right balance of expectation is what marks a great sales leader.

  • Support and educate sales reps on proactive disqualification. 

There are numerous steps managers can take to support and educate sales reps to maintain a healthy pipeline. For example, encourage reps to let go of bad leads by providing them with plenty of good leads or offering them the support they need to actively find high-quality opportunities.

  • Put a dollar figure on it. 

Show sales reps the commissions they’re passing up by not disqualifying leads to discourage them from holding onto bad opportunities. For example, share a spreadsheet that demonstrates the value of disqualifying as soon as possible by assigning a dollar value to minutes spent on low-quality leads. You can also show the impact of applying that time to nurture relationships with high-quality prospects.

  • Let your team know it’s okay to say no. 

Coach sales reps to confidently say no to prospects that aren’t a good fit. Doing so can help your organization gain instant credibility as a trusted advisor. Not only will you save valuable time and resources by not pursuing poor opportunities, but you also build a good rapport and increase the chances that prospects will return the next time they have a need that you may be able to help with. 

  • Build prospect disqualification into the sales process

Sales reps should be proactive in disqualifying bad deals, but too many companies aren’t giving them the support to do so systematically. Sales leaders must spend time and effort coaching their teams on effectively disqualifying prospects as soon as possible so that the organization can increase sales productivity.

To do so, build checks and balances at each stage of the sales process to focus on increasing information about the prospects. You want to understand who’s on the buying team and their priorities, how your solution can help them accomplish those goals, whether they have agreed to a mutual action plan toward purchasing, and whether the sales process is on track.

With these tips in mind, you are well on your way to coaching up a sales team, giving them the confidence they need to own their opportunities and grow as sales professionals. The sooner they learn that disqualifying bad prospects is just as important as qualifying great prospects, the sooner your sales team will hit their numbers and meet their goals. Learn more.

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