Sell to Win

8 sales qualifying questions you need to know

Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win
Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win

Tactful qualifying questions can save you the hassle of potentially going through the entire pipeline with a non-starter.

It doesn't matter how good a salesperson you are, you can't convert every single lead that comes your way—mostly because a handful of your leads won't be a good fit for the products or services you sell. This is why sales qualifying questions are so important.

In this article, we'll share eight sales qualifying questions you can use to weed out bad fit prospects, and why it's vital that you ask these questions during the sales process.

^ POV: Seth Meyers getting ready to qualify you.

Why is it important to qualify leads?

Sales qualification is the process of determining whether a prospect is a good fit for the products or services you sell. It's important because it tells you where to spend your time.

If a prospect isn't a good fit for your products and/or services, why waste valuable hours trying to convince them to buy? You'll close more deals in less time, while reducing the likelihood of unsatisfied customers and returns, if you prioritize good fit prospects.

The question is, how do you qualify leads?

8 sales qualifying questions

One of the best ways to qualify leads is to simply talk with them. Here are eight sales qualifying questions you can ask your prospects to learn if they're a good fit for your company:

1. How did you hear about us?

This is a simple question that can actually tell you a lot about your prospect and their buying potential. For example, it will tell you which of your company's sales and marketing efforts are bearing fruit. Did your lead click on a Facebook ad? Were they referred to you?

Once you know this information, you can evaluate the lead source. Do Facebook leads generally convert into paying customers? If your prospect is a Facebook lead, they might not convert either.

When to use this question: In general, this is a great question to ask at the beginning of the sales process. As stated above, it can give you interesting details about your prospect, but doesn't feel overly direct or "salesy," which sometimes scares leads away.

Why this question works: This sales qualifying question will help you identify how far down the sales funnel your prospects are. If they contact you after attending a webinar, for instance, you can probably assume that they know a bit about your brand.

But if they clicked on a Google Ad, there's a chance they have no idea what sets your brand and its products apart from the competitors in your industry.

2. Who makes buying decisions at your company?

Why waste your time talking to someone who can't pull the trigger and purchase your offerings? At the very least, your prospect should be a part of the decision-making process when it comes to purchasing new products and services.

Many business leaders employ assistants to investigate new software tools, partner agencies, etc. So there's a chance that the person who reaches out to you has no buying power.

When to use this question: Once again, this question should be asked at the beginning of the sales process. Your time is valuable. Don't waste it talking to assistants who can't make purchases. At the very best, you'll have to pitch your lead multiple times: once for the assistant and once for their boss, the actual decision maker in the company.

Why this question works: It always pays to know who the decision-makers are. By asking this question of a new lead, you'll learn exactly who you need to convince to make a sale.

Batman using subtle sales negotiating to identify key decision makers.

3. What business problem do you need to solve?

Here's the thing: businesses don't invest in new products and services for the fun of it. They do it because they're experiencing a problem that needs to be solved. Your job as a sales rep is to figure out which problem your prospects are dealing with.

When you understand your prospects' pain points, you can determine whether your offerings are a viable solution. If they are, proceed with the sales process. If they aren't, move on.

When to use this question: This question should be asked near the beginning of the sales process, after initial pleasantries. The sooner you know the answer, the better. But don't feel like you need to dive into this question at the very start. Doing so might make you seem overly aggressive.

Why this question works: Pain points are the foundation of sales. When you know what your prospect struggles with, you can present your product as the best solution—or not. Learn your lead's pain and then determine if you can solve it for them.

4. Why is this problem a priority for you right now?

Once you know what problem your prospect wants to solve, you need to learn why they want to solve it right now. This will give you insight into their motivations.

Did their company just go through a change in leadership? Did their current provider raise their prices? Maybe they've experienced legal problems and need your products and/or services to help them avoid similar issues in the future.

When to use this question: Right after asking your prospect about the problem they're looking to solve. So, let's say near the middle of your initial sales call.

Why this question works: Prospects who want to buy now rather than later are more viable leads than prospects who don't have a specific time frame. You'll close more deals if you focus on leads who have an immediate need for your offerings.

5. Have you tried to solve this problem in the past? Why didn't your previous solution work out for you?

You need to know what your prospect has done in the past to try and solve their problem. More than that, you need to know why their previous attempts failed to remedy the issue(s) they're facing. That way you don't suggest something similar and waste everyone's time.

When to use this question: Right after you ask your prospect why their problem is a priority for them right now. In fact, questions three, four, and five could be considered one, three-part question. Ask your prospects this query in the middle of your first conversation with them.

Why this question works: When you know what your leads have already tried, you can suggest alternate options—if you have them, of course. If you can't offer your prospect a viable solution that they haven't already experimented with, send them on their way.

6. Do you have the budget for this solution right now? If so, when do you expect to make a purchase?

You have to talk about money if you want to properly qualify your leads. So don't be afraid to ask your prospect about their budget and when they expect to make a purchase.

If they can't afford your offerings, you'll know they aren't a good fit for your company at this time. If they don't expect to make a purchase in the near future, you can focus your efforts on other, more buy-ready leads, while staying in touch until they're ready to pull the trigger.

When to use this question: It can be tough to determine the perfect time to bring up a prospect's budget. Ask too soon and you'll seem pushy. Ask too late and you risk wasting time on a prospect who will never actually become a customer.

Many times prospects will ask about the cost of your products and services themselves. When they do, answer honestly. If you're forced to start budget talks yourself, we suggest doing so in the middle of your first conversation.

Why this question works: Cost is one of the main factors companies consider when evaluating new products and services. You need to know if a prospect can afford your offerings before they become a qualified lead.

7. What could keep your company from moving forward?

Does your prospect have any deal-breakers? If so, you need to know about them.

Imagine going through your entire sales process, spending hours on the phone with a prospect, sending countless emails, rearranging your schedule to accommodate them. Only to learn that they're dead set against (blank)—a factor that's completely out of your control.

When you know about your prospect's non-negotiables, you can determine whether your company can accommodate them or if you're better off moving on.

When to use this question: Sooner rather than later. Consider asking your prospects this sales qualifying question during your first call with them.

Why this question works: The average sales rep needs 128 leads to make 1 deal. Weed out unqualified prospects and speed up the sales process by learning about deal breakers.

8. What other solutions are you considering?

Who are you competing with for the deal? If you learn who you're up against, you can steer sales conversations to highlight your offerings' unique benefits.

When to use this question: This question can be asked toward the end of the sales qualifying process. It's not incredibly important, but can give you valuable information.

Why this question works: You need to know if your prospect is genuinely interested in your company's offerings, or is simply fishing for a better price. Every once in a while, you'll come across a lead who's only talking to you to gain leverage over another vendor.

Wrapping up

These eight sales qualifying questions will help you identify good fit prospects. You can then spend your time on these deals, boosting your close rate in the process.

We should mention that you don't have to ask all eight questions to qualify a prospect. Choose the ones that fit your needs, abandon the rest. As long as they keep you focused on the right leads, they're doing their job and you'll be a better salesperson because of them.

Thanks to Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash for the cover photo. ✊

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