In any sales environment, a lead is simply a potential prospect. Sales reps need to properly qualify leads in order to efficiently focus their time on the leads that can potentially become prospects and not those that quite literally cannot buy from you. In a Federal sales environment there are six steps to qualifying a lead.

A lead is the same whether in the commercial enterprise or federal market. There are differences in how you qualify the lead and move that lead through a federal sales process to align and close that opportunity. This is especially true since your customer who has the requirement or need cannot tell you they can or will by your product. The only person in the government who can obligate funds is the contracting officer. That can become an issue when speaking with your VP of Sales when that person asks for a commit and asks the federal salesperson to go speak with the contracting officer to get that commit to close your opportunity. Most contracting officers will not speak directly to original equipment manufacturers that do not hold the contract that the product will be procured. Happens every day!

6 Steps To Qualify A Lead In Federal Sales

1. Find Contact Information

The first step to moving a lead through the qualification process is to find their correct contact information. To effectively move someone through this process, you cannot rely solely on one of your Federal Resellers speaking with your contact. You need to have the lead's correct email and phone number; you also need to know basic information about their role within the organization. Understanding this information will allow you to converse over the phone, virtual or in-person and help you better understand if this lead really will become a prospect for your pipeline.

2. Identify Needs & Requirements

The next step is to identify the lead's pain points and if your solution can help them meet their needs and requirements. Pain points often stem from:

  1. New regulations
  2. New requirements
  3. New threats
  4. Any change or refresh

A qualified lead will have taken steps to better understand their requirements and potential pricing surrounding them by either issuing a RFI, researching their own solutions or consulting with FSIs for advice and recommendations. If your lead does not fully understand their needs and what is required to solve them, that lead is likely not qualified. Likewise, if your product cannot actually solve their problems, then this is not a lead to pursue further.

3. Verify Funding

In Federal Sales, verifying funding can be a tricky process and even more confusing is that a lead who is trying to purchase through an unfunded requirement is not necessarily unqualified. At this step, you really need to understand how hard your potential customer is willing to work to secure funding for your request, here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you understand this better:

  • Is this a funded request?
  • If it is unfunded, does your customer have a compelling case and plan to request funding?
  • Can your customer explain the contracting process to you or are they directly involved in the contracting process?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then you can likely continue moving your lead through the qualification process because they seem to be actively working to secure a solution.

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4. Introduce A Compelling Event

A sense of urgency in sales always helps move a pipeline along. This is where the compelling event comes into play. A compelling event is something that happens within your customer's environment that propels them to move forward to meet their requirements. Important deadlines, management requirements, legislation changes, current events or internal disruptions can each be a compelling event that can trigger that sense of urgency and help you determine if the lead is qualified.

5. Understand The Timeline

At this point you truly have a qualified lead, however in Federal Sales, the desire for your solution does not outweigh the Federal Government's stringent timeline. Funding that is available this Fiscal Year (FY) is simply not guaranteed for the next FY, so you need to understand if you quite literally have the time to make this sale a reality. And the reality is, the closer you begun the sales process by introducing your product to the customer at the September 30 mid-night deadline, no matter how well you qualified the lead - 90 percent of the time it will not close.

6. Determine The Next Steps

The final step to qualify a lead in Federal sales is to plan out your next steps for officially moving your contact from a lead into a prospect. These steps may require you to:

  • Lead a presentation
  • Demo your solution
  • Find a contract vehicle the customer can use to procure your products
  • Find a Federal reseller who holds that contract vehicle
  • Sign that Federal reseller as a partner
  • Get quotes over to the Federal customer from your new Federal partner
  • Provide additional information
  • Engage with additional stakeholders

Last, but certainly not least, work through this process very critically. Working through the steps too quickly or through rose-colored glasses can easily lead you to qualify a lead incorrectly. This, in turn, results in you wasting precious time prospecting someone that will never be able to buy from you but are needed to ensure your have the opportunity aligned to close should it move through the procurement process.

Want To Learn More About How To Qualify A Lead In Federal Sales?

We walk through step by step how you can identify and qualify Federal Government leads in our On-Demand Federal Sales Certification Training Course.