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Qualifying questions: What to ask your sales prospects

“Sales executives tell us often that one of the challenges they face is ensuring that their salespeople are doing a really great job of qualifying opportunities,” wrote Barbara Giamanco on her “Sales Meets Social Media” blog. “Unless potential opportunities are well qualified, precious time is wasted, which not only does nothing to drive pipeline and revenue, but it is quite costly to the organization.” Giamanco is president of Social Centered Selling and the co-author of “The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media.”

Questions to ask yourself
There are some questions you need to answer for yourself in order to understand whether a lead is qualified. According Giamanco’s post, those questions are:

  • Should we pursue this opportunity?
  • Can we effectively compete for this opportunity?
  • Can we reasonably expect to win this opportunity?

But in order to answer these questions, you need to understand some basic information about your prospect. And the only way to do that is to ask the prospect the right questions.

Giamanco told ZoomInsights, “You need to be sure that the person you are meeting with has the authority to make the decision, a pressing need for what you are selling, a definite initiative and timeline for implementing a solution and budget to fund the purchase. If any of these four elements are missing, you have no sales opportunity.”

Questions to ask sales prospects
According to Thomas Ellis, chief sales coach at EWC Consultants, there are six questions you need to ask. He wrote about them on the Boss Rocket blog. There are some general rules that can help guide you in these discussions, though. Ellis told ZoomInsights, “Ask open-ended questions so they can elaborate on their answer.” You will also want to ask questions that help you understand what their needs are, Ellis said, because that helps you build rapport.

With that in mind, there are a few questions to which you need clear answers to know whether a prospect is serious.
  1. What is their budget?
  2. When are they looking to make a decision?
  3. Are you dealing with the decision maker?
  4. If your contact is not a decision maker, what is the process?
  5. What would need to happen in order to make them change vendors?
  6. If they find the right solution, when would they be looking to switch?

Giamanco echoed, “Someone might tell you they are the decision maker, but in reality, they may be the one assigned to gather the information. Be sure that you ask questions to understand who has authority over the budget. And you need to ask questions about the internal decision-making process so you can realistically determine how long it might take to close the deal.”

But don’t stop there, Giamanco warned. “If you are asked to submit a proposal after talking to someone for the first time, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. At that stage, the buying process is probably close to completion and your proposal is probably being used to negotiate better terms with the frontrunner for the sale. Don’t just submit a proposal blindly. Ask questions to determine how far down the path they’ve already gone in evaluating solutions offered by other companies. That helps you determine if you move forward or politely pass on the opportunity.”

The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Knowing as much as possible about your clients and their needs is as important for them as it is for you.


It’s really helpful to have good profile information about the prospect company and the person with whom you’re dealing. ZoomInfo Pro can help, with its detailed profiles of 65 million businesspeople and 6 million businesses. Learn more.


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