Powerful Qualifying Questions

Young businesswoman working on paperwork in office
Lindsay Upson/Image Source/Getty Images

The sooner you can narrow down your lead list by eliminating all the non-prospects, the better. Once you've sorted out your leads and identified the true prospects, you can start moving said prospects along the sales process and hopefully into the close.

Qualify Leads

If you don't fully qualify your leads early on, you'll be wasting a lot of time with people who will never buy from you. But on the other hand, if you ask too many touchy questions right away, they'll be reluctant to answer.

So qualifying is always a balancing act between leaving enough time to build rapport without waiting so long that you've wasted everyone's time. Many salespeople resolve this problem by asking a few very basic qualifying questions during the cold call – to weed out the obviously unqualified folks – and then finishing the qualification process during a second call or at the beginning of the sales presentation.

Whatever timing strategy you choose for qualifying, there are some crucial bits of information that can help you identify non-prospects early and send them on their way. These particular details fall into two basic categories: whether the person has a need for your product or service, and whether he has the means to buy from you at all.

Qualifying Questions

A prospect who has a need for what you're selling won't necessarily know it when you first reach out to him. Your qualifying questions can help him to realize that need at the same time you're digging up information for yourself, so this type of question can be especially powerful.

Need qualifying questions include the following:

  • Have you made a purchase of this type before? How did it work out for you?
  • Have you considered buying a [product type]? Why or why not?
  • How do you see yourself using this product? How will it help you?
  • What issues are you facing right now that this product can help you with?
  • If there was one thing you could change about your [life/business], what would it be?
  • What will you gain from solving this issue?
  • What are the risks involved in fixing this issue? What are the risks of NOT fixing it?
  • How long has this issue been around? What has held you back from fixing it so far?

If one of these questions triggers a strong response in your prospect, pursue it – a long answer to a short question indicates it's an important issue for him. But don't push if he refuses to answer a question. You can always return to it later once you've built a bit more trust with your prospect.

The second category of qualifying questions helps you to determine whether a person is able to buy from you. An inability to buy might be related to a lack of money, or might occur because the person you're speaking with isn't the final decision maker or something else entirely. Some of these questions venture into pretty delicate areas, so ask them with caution unless you're sure you've built a strong rapport with the prospect. The following questions can help you uncover ability problems:

  • If you decide to buy, what will the purchasing process look like?
  • Who will be involved in reviewing our proposal?
  • How long will it take to get final approval?
  • Will this purchase come out of your department budget?
  • Who will generate the purchase order / complete the contract?
  • Will there be a lender involved?