12 Qualifying Questions for Sales You Need to Know

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 asking qualifying questions for sales is so important.

In this article, we’ll share 12 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.

What is the qualifying process in sales?

The sales qualifying process is a method for determining whether a prospect is a good fit for the products or services you sell. Some leads may not be in the right position to buy your product or service, maybe if it doesn’t meet their goals or if they’ve already been unsuccessful with a similar solution. Going through the qualifying process helps you identify the leads that are unlikely to end up purchasing.

What is a qualifying question in sales?

Qualifying questions are questions sales reps ask during the qualifying process to qualify a lead. There are many examples of qualifying questions in sales, and the ones your sales team chooses will depend on the product or service you’re selling.

Why are qualifying questions important in sales?

Asking qualifying questions in the sales process is 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?

12 qualifying questions for sales teams

One of the best ways to qualify leads is to simply talk with them. Here are 12 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 does the purchasing process look like at your business?

Similar to finding out who makes purchasing decisions at the lead’s company, uncovering their purchase process is important for helping you determine who else needs to be looped in and when. Even if you’re speaking to the primary decision maker, you may still need to meet with the rest of the team before they finalize their decision. 

When to use this question: Also at the beginning of your conversation. If you’re able to set up another sales call or provide the lead with additional information about your product, you’ll need to know whether there are other people to include in the plans.

Why this question works: Knowing what to expect regarding how long the purchasing process may take and how many people you’ll need to get in touch with can help you prepare for those additional conversations and keep the ball rolling.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Have you tried to solve this problem in the past?

You need to know what your prospect has done in the past to try and solve their problem if they’ve tried anything. Their answer might provide insight into other priorities or challenges at their company. For example, if they’ve never tried to solve the problem before, it might be because they didn’t have the budget — and they still might not have the budget for your product.

When to use this question: After asking about why their problem is a priority, probably during your first sales call.

Why this question works: Learning what has prevented your prospect from overcoming the challenge in the past can help you spot potential pitfalls before you get too far into the sales process.

7. Why didn’t your previous solution work out for you?

More than just knowing what your prospect has tried, 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. 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.

8. Do you have the budget for this solution right now?

You have to talk about money if you want to properly qualify your leads. So don’t be afraid to as your prospect about their budget. If they can’t afford your offerings, you’ll know they aren’t a good fit for your company at this time.

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.

9. If you have the budget, when do you expect to make a purchase?

Another important financial question is when they expect to make a purchase. 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: Right after you determine whether they have the budget for your product.

Why this question works: Depending on the prospect’s purchasing timeline, you may be able to set up some next steps to help nurture the relationship while spending more time with others who are closer to taking the leap. For example, they might be in favor of having you run multiple sales calls with different stakeholders or viewing some webinars your marketing team is hosting. Think creatively to keep your leads on the hook until they bite.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. What does success look like to you?

Understanding what changes the lead would like to see at their business — both in terms of qualitative and quantitative results — is critical for determining whether your product or service can help achieve them.

When to use this question: This question is best for early in the sales process when you’re determining your prospect’s definition of success.

Why this question works: If you think your offerings can help them meet their goals, you can qualify the prospect. If they have unrealistic expectations about what your product can do, they might be a better fit for another company.

Frequently asked questions about sales qualification

Want to know more about sales qualification? Dig into these FAQs to learn more about the sales qualifying process: 

How do you qualify a customer in sales?

You can qualify a customer during the sales process by creating an ideal customer profile (ICP) and comparing leads to that persona. To craft an ICP, perform market research and come up with a list of characteristics your ideal audience would have. Then ask sales qualifying questions to see whether leads match those profiles. 

What is an example of a qualified prospect?

A qualified prospect is someone who is in a good position to buy your product or service. Generally, qualified prospects are struggling with an issue your product can solve, are dissatisfied with their previous solutions, and have the budget to purchase your product.

What are some powerful sales questions?

Powerful sales questions are the questions you can ask a prospect to gain a lot of information about their needs, priorities, and expectations. Besides the sales qualifying questions listed above, a few powerful sales questions include:

  • What are your organization’s short-term and long-term goals?
  • What challenges do you foresee arising when implementing this solution?
  • How does your team evaluate a new product or service and make purchasing decisions?
  • What do you consider to be your team’s greatest strength? And weakness?

When should you ask sales qualifying questions?

You should ask different sales qualifying questions at different stages of the sales qualifying process. For example, finding out the problem a lead is trying to solve should be a priority in the beginning of the process. Broaching the topic of budget is best reserved for the middle of an initial call.

Uncover the best use of your team’s time with Nutshell

These 12 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 12 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.

Looking for a tool to show your sales team the big picture of their relationships plus all the details they need to move individual leads toward a sale? Nutshell is your solution. Our CRM has the powerful sales and marketing features you need to see into your pipeline, keep in touch with contacts, automate outreach like personal and marketing emails, and see where you need to spend your time to have the greatest impact. 

Try Nutshell for yourself with a free 14-day trial

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

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