In the world of sales, time is your most valuable asset. With quotas to meet, we all know how frustrating it is to waste time with a lead that never seriously considered buying from you in the first place. That’s where sales qualification comes in.
Sales qualification is the act of evaluating potential prospects to determine whether they possess the characteristics that make them a good fit for your product or service. In simpler terms – qualifying a lead or prospect means determining whether or not they are worth your time.
Though this is one of the most important parts of a sales rep’s job, it’s also one of the most difficult. In fact, 22% of sales reps say that qualifying is the most challenging part of the sales process (source).
Luckily, with the right questions, you can remove much of the frustration and confusion from sales qualification.
Consult your buyer personas
Before we break down the top qualifying questions, we must reiterate the importance of buyer personas in this process.
A buyer persona is a profile of an ideal prospect based on research and existing customer data. As you go through the sales qualification process, a detailed buyer persona will help you recognize whether or not the person you’re speaking to is a qualified prospect.
Ask yourself – how would the ideal buyer answer each of these questions? Responses will vary, of course, but if a prospect strays too far from the characteristics of your buyer persona, it may be time to disqualify.
Here’s a helpful infographic if you want more details on buyer personas: Buyer Personas: The Missing Piece to Your Lead Gen Puzzle
Now let’s look at 12 qualifying questions to ask prospects.
1. What problem are you trying to fix?
Sales qualification is all about understanding the prospect. The most essential information you can gather from a prospect is insight into the problem they’re hoping to fix by purchasing your product. Serious prospects aren’t looking to buy a solution because they have some extra cash to get rid of; more than likely, their business is being affected by a specific issue that they need to correct.
2. Why are you looking for a solution now?
Perhaps this prospect’s problem is impacting their ability to complete essential tasks. Maybe it’s been a nagging issue that they finally are getting around to. A recent change in management or strategy could be the reason they’re addressing the problem now.
The answers you’ll get to this question will help you determine how essential a solution is to the prospect. Do they need to fix their problem to be successful? Or would they simply like to fix their problem if a solution greatly appeals to them?
3. Have you tried to address this problem before?
This question will quickly identify where the prospect is in their buying journey. Even if they aren’t familiar with your product, they may have already tried to remedy their problem with a similar product that was unsuccessful. If this is the case, you’ll want to follow up and learn what went wrong with their prior attempts to solve their problem.
4. Who is involved in the decision-making process?
Unless you’re selling to an extremely small organization, the person you’re speaking to likely plays one small role in the overall decision-making process. Perhaps they think your solution is the perfect fit, but there are five other decision-makers that disagree. You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the buying team and who plays the most important role in the process.
5. Do the other stakeholders have any concerns?
You may only have one individual on the phone with you, but you should still get to know the other decision-makers. Find out which details of your solution might attract or pose problems to specific members of the decision-making team.
6. What does your ideal timeline look like?
This is a good question for two reasons: it will help you establish a timeframe and also gauge the level of urgency the prospect has. If they answer with a target date, it’s a good indication they have a strong need for your solution. If they don’t have a timeframe in mind, they may not be the serious, qualified prospect you’re looking to spend your time on.
7. Do you have a budget allocated for this project?
This question will come as no surprise, as discussing budgets is an unavoidable part of the sales qualification process. And to be blunt, the average prospect isn’t thrilled about this step. In fact, a recent survey found that only 24% of polled buyers want to discuss budgets on the first sales call (source).
Understanding the prospect’s budget is essential, however – and therefore you’ll want to get this done sooner rather than later. The key is to discuss budget at the right time: ask too early, and you’ll risk irritating a good prospect. Ask too late, and you may find that you wasted too much time on a prospect you should’ve disqualified quickly.
In this early stage of the process, the exact number isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker – rather, it’s important that their budget is in the same neighborhood as the price of your solution. If there’s a massive disparity between the two figures, it is safe to say they can be disqualified.
8. How much have you spent on similar solutions?
The amount of money they’ve spent on solutions in the past may be different than the amount they’ve allocated to fix their current problem. If the budget they gave you is less than what they spent on a past solution, ask for details – what changed? Can they no longer afford to spend as much as they once did, or is this a sign that buying a solution isn’t much of a priority at the moment?
9. Who is responsible for overseeing the budget?
While you should already know who the decision-makers are, you want to know who has final say. It’s imperative that this person is on board with your solution, particularly if their budget is slightly less than your asking price.
10. Are you looking at any other solutions?
It’s likely you aren’t the only provider the prospect has been in contact with. In fact, they may even have plans to sign a deal with a different company, but want to cover all their bases by talking to you. You can’t stop a prospect from exploring other options, but you should ensure that they are showing legitimate interest in your solution and haven’t already made their mind up to go elsewhere.
11. Are there any potential roadblocks that could halt this deal?
This is a question you can’t leave out unless you want to risk potential headaches in the future. Give your prospect the chance to discuss any issues or potential obstacles that could affect the sale. Determine whether their concerns are manageable, or whether the amount of potential hurdles is enough to disqualify them.
12. Based on our conversation, how do you feel about our solution?
You’ve discussed the prospect’s needs, decision-making process, and budget – by this point, you should know whether or not they are qualified. This last question serves the purpose of confirming the prospect’s interest and allowing them to voice any last concerns or objections.
From here, you can end the qualifying call by scheduling a follow-up or confirming when you will be in contact again. Make sure you and the prospect both know what the next step is before you hang up the phone.
It goes without saying – all sales reps want more qualified prospects. But it’s important not to place a stigma on disqualifying prospects that aren’t in line with your ideal customer profiles.
If someone isn’t qualified, you’ll run into problems down the road either way – so it’s best to disqualify as soon as possible and move on. You won’t waste your own time, and you’ll ensure that the prospects you do qualify are exactly who your business is looking to work with.
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