Sales qualification is the backbone of client prospecting. In fact, through it, businesses get to know and understand their potential clients before they start pursuing them. As a result, they can better prioritize the work of their sales teams and significantly increase productivity.
However, for this process to work out and deliver results, reps need to know how to approach the customer.
So, they need to ask the right sales qualifying questions.
Of course, what exactly you say to your clients depends on your business, your product, and the information you already have. Furthermore, the questions may change over the course of the conversation.
Still, there are a number of topics that, if addressed, will allow you to better structure your call and make sure that you don’t miss any important details.
In this article, we’ll highlight 24 sales qualifying questions to use in your orientation calls with prominent prospects. They are organized into 7 groups based on their topics, and the information they collect.
Feel free to adjust and personalize them based on your business’s needs and/or complete the list with additions relevant to your particular case.
Sales Qualification Questions and Structure
Depending on what you already know about the prospect, you can ask the sales qualification questions in a different order, skip some of them, or even add new ones.
However, even if you already have some information, it doesn’t hurt to confirm and update. You may learn something new, clarify important details, and clear up misunderstandings.
The general areas that you need to focus on are:
The Business and Pain Points
You should consider starting with asking for general information with your sales qualifying questions. This way you’ll be able to better understand the current situation of the business and how it may affect the outcome.
1. Have there been any major changes in your organization in the last year? Have they affected your department and how?
When there are organizational, structural, or management changes, businesses are more likely to adopt new solutions.
Knowing what happened, when, and how it affects the day-to-day of the people in the relevant departments will provide you with a better understanding of what issues the teams face, and how your business can help.
2. Are there any major changes planned in the foreseeable future?
Similar to the previous question, this can help you better understand what’s going on in the company.
If there are changes coming soon, this may jeopardize the deal, as the new management may want to take a new direction or redistribute the budget. In this case, it may be a good idea to put pursuing the prospect on hold until their situation becomes clearer.
3. How many people work in [relevant departments]?
You may already know how many people work in the company but it’s a good idea to also learn the numbers of the teams and departments that may directly benefit from your product. This will provide you with insight into the potential adoption scope.
Once you’ve learned a bit more about the company, it’s time to focus on their relevant pain points and the consequences of their problems.
4. What are the latest challenges your company has been facing in terms of [relate to your product]?
You may have some idea of the issues that the company is facing based on the information you’ve already collected and/or the insights you have gathered from working with similar clients.
However, each business is different and has unique needs and pain points. By understanding them better, you can find out if they are a good match for your company. You can also use this information to offer on-point solutions later on in the communication.
Furthermore, the focus here is on the “latest” challenges as these are, more often than not, the most pressing ones that affect processes the most, and people are most likely to want to solve.
5. What problems are you currently trying to solve?
Challenges and problems are not the same things. With this question, you are focusing on what pain points the client is in immediate need of solving.
If they don’t have problems that your business can help with, they don’t need you, and there’s no need to continue the conversation.
However, keep in mind that the prospect may not be aware of all their relevant needs and issues yet, so don’t be quick to scratch their name off your list.
6. Other companies in your industry often report [name a relevant issue], have you experienced the same?
This may sound a bit like a leading question, but what you aim for here is to help the customer identify a need or a pain point that they are not aware of.
Tread carefully, as you don’t want to come across as aggressive. Your goal is not to try to convince them that they are facing an issue, but to list common problems and see if they have experienced any of them.
7. What are you doing about these problems, and what prevents you from solving them?
If you know what the customer is currently doing to solve their issues and why they are failing, you can better understand whether your company is able to help them.
Maybe the issue is not urgent and they haven’t done anything about it yet, because it’s not a priority. And if it’s not likely to become a priority any time soon, you may be wasting your time.
Furthermore, you may find out that there is a blocker – such as budget, a decision-maker, or team bandwidth – that makes the sale impossible.
8. What happens if you don’t solve these problems?
The consequences of unsolved problems are, usually, the driving force behind trying to solve them. By finding out what these are for your prospect, it will be easier for you to understand how likely they are to actively look for a solution.
After all, if the problem is not a big deal for them, they may not want to fix it yet.
The Project and Processes
Aside from the immediate pain points, you should ask a few questions about the current state of the relevant project and the processes involved. The focus should be on the solutions the team is using at the moment.
Some of this information may have already surfaced in your conversation so far – if it has, skip the respective question or adjust it to further clarify what you’ve learned.
9. Are you currently using any relevant tools/products/services and are you happy with them? Why, or why not?
Knowing what solutions the prospect is currently using and whether they are similar to yours, will provide you with insight into what you can offer to improve their experience.
Also, the second part of the question will prompt them to share how they feel about their customer experience. Listen carefully to both the positive and negative feedback as these can provide valuable information as to how it compares to your product.
10. What can make your solution better?
Maybe there is a feature that they really want and their provider doesn’t offer, but you do.
Based on the answers, continue on this question to find out more – how important are the additional features and functions? Is the client willing to switch solutions based on this?
11. What can make your day-to-day process easier?
This type of question can tell you a lot about the real-life everyday issues the prospect is facing. You will know how your solution fits into their list of troubles and can use this information to pick selling points to focus on later on.
Furthermore, talking about their day-to-day challenges can help you build a connection to the prospect, get on their right side, and predispose them to share more information.
12. Are you planning on changing your current process and/or tools, and why?
This question will reveal more about any upcoming changes that are directly related to the product and the potential deal. They may or may not be related to the overall changes in the company.
Furthermore, depending on the role of your contact person in the project and the decision-making process they may have something valuable to say. They may be against the change and may oppose it, or may find it necessary and be the one who initiated it.
Based on their answers, you can ask additional questions as to how the change (or lack of it) will affect their work and to what end.
13. What are you looking for in a tool?
With this question, you can find more information about the features, functionalities, usability, etc., that the prospect is looking for.
By comparing this to what your product offers, you can figure out whether you and the client are a good match.
14. What other options are you reviewing right now?
If the client is on the market for a new solution, it’s a safe bet that you are not the only option on their list.
If you find out what competitors they are interested in, you can use this information later on in the sales process to offer comparisons and to highlight how your product is superior and/or better suited.
Timing and Urgency
In business, timing is everything. When asking sales qualifying questions, it’s vital to understand whether interested clients are ready to make the deal now, during the next quarter, in a year, or in an indefinite period of time.
These questions will help you to prioritize the prospects on your list, and better understand their intentions.
15. How soon do you want to solve this problem?
The answer to this question will give you an idea of how urgent the purchase is to the client.
If they are not in a hurry, pursuing them now will be a waste of time. Instead, you can go after more prominent prospects that are looking to purchase a solution right away, and come back to this client later.
16. Do you have the necessary resources to address the issue now? And if not, do you think that you may obtain them in the foreseeable future? When?
The client may feel pressured to solve the issue but lack the time, money, and manpower to do it.
Therefore, if you know what obstacles are holding them back, you can suggest solutions. Or you may find out that your product can help them bypass some of their issues while being a selling point, and fast-forwarding the deal.
The Decision-Making Hierarchy
The company’s organization and decision-making process and how your contact person fits into them are an important part of the sales qualification process.
By asking the following sales qualifying questions, you will find out whether you are talking to the right person, who else needs to be convinced to move forward with the deal, and, overall, how to approach the rest of the conversation.
17. What is your role in using the product?
Your contact person may be a decision maker, a gatekeeper (such as a secretary or an assistant), a team leader, the end-user of the product, or a different stakeholder. Their role in the project is integral to their role in the sale.
For example, they may be the decision-maker but they may not be familiar with the whole process and, as a result, may not see the same value in the product’s assets as a direct user would. However, if they are a direct user, their word may not have the same weight in the decision-making process.
By understanding their role, you can figure out the best way to approach them to convince them of the benefits of the deal.
18. What is the purchase approval process?
If the final decision requires the input of a lot of stakeholders, this may make the process slow and complicated.
Understanding who is involved and what role they have will provide you with better clarity on how long the sales cycle may be. In addition, this way you can plan how to proceed with the next steps of the negotiations, and how likely it is to succeed.
19. Is there someone else that I can present this information to that will benefit from it?
The answer to this question can point you to other important stakeholders.
Budget and Willingness to Pay
While budget is not the only thing that determines whether the client makes a purchase, it can be what makes it or breaks it.
Furthermore, the potential customer may have the necessary budget, but not be willing to pay the required price.
20. How much is your budget for this product/project?
Simply put, this question will help you find out whether the client can afford your solution. If they don’t have the budget for it and don’t expect to have it any time soon, there’s no need to waste time and effort.
21. How much does this problem currently cost you?
If there is a problem in place, it’s very likely that the business is either paying for a solution to keep it at bay, or they are experiencing some kind of financial loss as a result of it.
Keep in mind that the client may not be aware of the exact losses they are suffering or even that there are financial losses to begin with.
22. How much are you willing to pay for a similar solution?
Being able to afford something doesn’t mean that you are willing to pay the price.
Therefore, asking how much the client is ready to invest will provide further insight into their budget and requirements. It can also provide you with ideas on what offer to make, what pricing plans to suggest, and so on.
23. How do the features, functionalities, and benefits of the product affect your willingness to pay?
The answer to this question can show you whether the client is flexible about their budget, or has a fixed limit.
After you ask all of your sales qualifying questions if you think that the prospect is a good fit, you need to find out whether they feel the same way, and invite them to a follow-up call.
24. Do you have a calendar in front of you? Would you like to continue our conversation on [date and time] or is there another time that will be more convenient for you?
These questions can help you find out the willingness of the prospect to continue the conversation.
Also, by immediately booking your next meeting, you make sure that the prospect will not change their mind later.
How to Ask Sales Qualification Questions
As mentioned, this list of sales qualification questions is a framework that you can use to compose your own questions.
Here are some general rules to follow when first talking to these prospects:
- Try to ask open-ended questions. Yes or no questions limit what information you can learn from the customer. Open-ended ones allow them to answer in their own words and express themselves freely. As a result, they’ll share more details and you will be able to understand them better.
- Don’t ask loaded questions. The so-called loaded questions include the answer in them and, again, limit what you can learn from the customer. Also, you assume facts or dig for them, rather than allow the person to tell you something new and valuable.
- Avoid leading questions. Similar to loaded questions, leading ones guide the respondent towards a certain answer, instead of providing them with a chance to express their doubts or discuss what’s really the issue.
- Allow people to share as much information as possible. Ask questions that allow people to speak and don’t interrupt them. Also, when you need to, ask confirmational and clarifying questions to help understand everything correctly.
- Focus on learning about the prospects, don’t talk about yourself. The goal of these orientation calls is to learn as much about the customer as possible and assess whether they are a good match for your business. To that end, you should focus on talking about them and their needs, rather than what you are offering.
Sales are an art form that takes a lot of time and experience to master. In fact, while new reps often think that zeal and talent are what it takes, what really makes the best salespeople successful is the systematic approach.
Actually, the right sales qualification questions can significantly improve the quality of the client prospecting process in your organization. Also, they can boost the productivity of your team.
By using the list we’ve provided as a blueprint, you can now compose your own questions and take your sales to the next level.