Mastering the Art of Continuous Deal Qualification: Lessons from Basketball


Much like a sports team that assesses their performance at halftime, it’s not the current state (i.e. score) that truly matters; it’s how we leverage that information behind the score that’s crucial. Similarly, when it comes to deal qualification, merely having a one-time assessment without taking concrete actions doesn’t propel us forward. I’ve shared a personal story at the end of this article.

Ideally, we should view Deal Qualification as just one ‘stoplight’ on our journey. It might indicate red, green, or yellow at that moment – and that is great as long as it represents reality and not what we hope it to be. What truly matters is our ability to objectively evaluate what we know and what we don’t. It’s essential to take an unemotional perspective, considered from the viewpoint of the individuals on the other side of the table who will ultimately make the decision.

This objectivity is vital as our actions resulting from this assessment determine our ability to make informed decisions moving forward. It might involve filling gaps in our knowledge and defining how we’ll accomplish that. It could also mean engaging other individuals within our organization, such as executives or solution consultants, and specifying their roles/actions required. I could elaborate further, but I think you grasp the essence.

Let’s go deeper on the idea of continuous qualification… the first time we assess an opportunity (in an early stage), what might we be missing? It could be access to the Decision Maker, or perhaps we don’t have a handle on Value. You get the picture. So, we craft a plan to fully develop those missing aspects. What might change after that first review? New players might emerge as part of the buying team, changing business priorities within the prospect org, new competitors may be brought in, etc. If we are not continuously reviewing our current state, we are going to be bailing a boat with holes we don’t see and just taking on more water.

One last point – it is never too late to walk away if we are rigorous in our process and honest with ourselves. We don’t want to be, to quote Pink Floyd, “banging our heads against some mad buggers wall.”

Deal qualification isn’t a one-time event. In fact, it’s one of the most productive practices that sales professionals and leaders can do if performed with consistency on each opportunity. However, it’s the subsequent actions and how we utilize the information that truly determine our success.

Addendum — my basketball story:

It’s the final game of the basketball season. The bronze medal is on the line at the provincial championships. We find ourselves down by 15 at the end of the first quarter – despite what I thought was a good game plan, crafted by me – the coach. It was that moment that my assistant coach walked down the bench to me and said “Things don’t look good.” (deal assessment). I wanted to say “duh” but I resisted and instead asked him what his opinions were on what we should do (what are the actions going forward?). He pointed out that we as a team were quicker and he felt that we had an opportunity to press and disrupt their momentum. Turns out that he was spot on… The end result was an up-tempo game and one that we came back to win by 15.

Thanks Coach Al!

Certified in 2012, David is a ValueSelling Facilitator, Coach, and Practitioner with 15 years of ValueSelling experience. He leverages his leadership experience in helping sales professionals become more effective, efficient, and relevant. By exposing the principles and concepts of ValueSelling in a practical and pragmatic manner, he has become a trusted advisor to sales associates and sales leaders alike.