I have been in technology sales for over 15 years, and have used a variety of sales methodologies. They all have their strengths, and they all focus on establishing a proven process to ensure success. This is very important, and I encourage everyone to find a solid sales methodology, and stick to it.
The first step of most sales methodologies is "qualification". I would argue that after closing the deal, this is the second most important step in the process. It will be used to determine the amount of effort you will commit to working the deal.
I have found a very simple and effective method for qualifying a sales opportunity, and I call it the 5 pillars of lead qualification. Here are the names and definitions for each pillar:
PAIN: Does your prospect have a specific problem and are they in need of a solution?
FIT: Does your solution address the specific need that the prospect has?
POWER: Are you talking with the person that can make the decision and sign the contract?
BUDGET: Can they afford the cost required to fix the problem? Budgeted or not.
TIMING: Is this a good time to address the problem? Do they have a compelling event?
Based on the information you collect during your initial calls, you are doing your best to collect all of the information listed above. You can decide if you need all 5, or 4 out 5, before you proceed. The more information you are missing, the more surprises can come up later in the sales process.
After each qualification call, I make a note of any missing information. I then decide what I need to do to fill in the blanks.
Doing all the important qualification upfront, makes for a smoother and faster sales process.