When was the last time you critiqued your qualifying questions? If you can’t recall the last time you actively examined them, it’s definitely time to do so. Asking ineffective questions won’t help your qualification process; instead, they’ll just waste everyone’s time. Or worse, they could lead you to pursue a prospect who isn’t a good fit.
"The qualification process if very important," says Denise Gibson, director of AdMall sales. "With sales, time is definitely money. If you spend too much time chasing a prospect that isn’t a good candidate you are losing money. You need to ask good qualifying questions to find out if you can help the buyer. Do you have the solution for their problems? If not, move on. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time. It can be a big time suck to chase an unqualified lead if you don’t find out early."
While questions will vary based on each salesperson's business, there are certain questions that are universally helpful. These questions reveal factors that help the seller determine whether they should pursue the prospect or not.
The right qualifying questions uncover seven principles
Certain underlying principles are universally important to all buyers, and HubSpot’s Emma Brudner highlights these factors in a recent article. As Brudner writes, there are various frameworks of sales-qualifying questioning that sellers use, such as BANT. And while they differ in some respects, they all work to uncover and identify specific factors vital to qualification.
The principles that matter most
Qualifying questions must allow the seller to find out how much awareness the prospect has about the product or service. Awareness-related questions are especially important for sellers who are providing a niche product or a new service. The prospect's level of awareness will influence the sales process. Qualifying questions about awareness also can help sellers get an idea of the buyer’s budgets. “If they aren’t familiar with what it is you offer, this could create roadblocks down the line when you ask about their budget for this type of expense,” Brudner explains.
Budget is also a very important factor to discuss during the qualification process and a necessary aspect of each and every sale. Sales require money, and sellers must understand a prospect’s budget before committing to a deal or risk wasting time on someone who just can’t (or won’t) pay the asking price.
“Early on, figure out how much of that budget is allocated to the team your prospect works on,” Brudner writes, “and what percentage of that budget is dedicated to the category of products and services you offer.” All sellers will benefit from asking qualifying questions about budget, so don’t leave them out.
When qualifying prospects, sellers must uncover who makes buying decisions. Because the person you’re speaking with likely isn’t the final decision-maker, it’s important to ask qualifying questions to find out who is. "In the beginning of the sales cycle, you have no idea how much of an influence the person you are talking to might have," Gibson notes. "You definitely want to be able to present to the person making the decisions as quickly as you can. That will definitely shorten the sales cycle. But you have to be careful and not jump too soon. If you are offensive to them, you may never get to the decision-maker. I have found more and more often today that there isn’t just one decision-maker. One of the many reasons that the buying process seems to take longer now than it ever used to."
Every qualification process must include questions that address need. Do they prospects have a need for what you’re selling? Do they even know they have a need? What about their entire team? Everyone must agree a need exists and you potentially have a solution. And both need to be agreed upon during the qualification process.
“Accurate forecasting is a significant part of the role of a sales rep, so establishing a timeline during the lead qualification process is essential,” Brudner writes. “Don’t mistake asking about a timeline as an invitation to negotiate moving the deal along faster than the lead is comfortable with.”
Just ask questions that give you an idea of when they could be ready to decide.
Examples of qualifying questions
Brudner doesn’t just break down the need-to-learn info of the qualification process. She also shares 21 qualifying questions that address each important principle. Below are just a few from her extensive list:
- What business problem are you solving with this offering?
- What's prompting you to do something about it now?
- Do you have a budget allocated for this project? If not, when do you expect to have one?
- How does the purchase approval process work?
- Is this a pain point for everyone on your team? Is there anyone who might serve as a barrier to this solution?
- When do you need a solution in place?
While you will likely personalize qualification questions for each prospect, the process should always include questions that address these principles.
Photo by Metro Creative Graphics, Inc.