By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

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Sales managers have a difficult job. In many instances, they have to look at opportunities more from a “disqualification” standpoint. I say this because sellers are often over optimistic in wanting to increase the number of opportunities in their pipelines. A common qualifying question that managers ask is: Has budget been approved for this initiative?

budget-chainsIn my experience, unless a company is in bankruptcy or is in the public sector, if budget is a problem then the seller isn’t high enough in the organization. That doesn’t mean that organizations have unlimited funds, but if a seller presents a strong business case, decision makers will often reallocate funding that had already been committed. This amounts to another seller getting a “no decision” outcome in either being told the purchase will be deferred until next year or the organization decided not to move forward.

Think for a minute, however, what it means if an inbound caller during the initial contact with a seller indicates they have budget approved for a B2B expenditure. Sellers may want to temper their enthusiasm because for a complex offering, buyers will usually have to get a seller involved to define their needs and make a recommendation that included estimated pricing. I interpret budget already being in place to be an indicator that sellers are coming in as at least Column B. They may be invited in to compete primarily to provide leverage to negotiate a better price from the vendor that started the buying cycle.

A better qualification question for mangers to ask would be: Whose numbers were used to establish the budget? If the seller indicated they provided budgetary numbers toward the end of the previous fiscal year, then it is far more likely he or she is Column A. If a buyer has funding already approved then it would be better to assume you’ve got some work to do in trying to become column A.