Qualifying questions, what are they and why are they important?
Let’s start off with a definition; what are qualifying questions or more fundamental what is sales qualification?
Sales qualification is the process of determining whether a potential customer (we like to call them ‘suspects’) has the characteristics and ‘pain points’ that match your company’s solution, and whether they are a good fit for your business. The ‘good fit’ is often overlooked in the rush to close more sales. The goal of sales qualification is to identify and prioritise suspects that have the potential to become paying customers, and to focus sales efforts on those with the highest likelihood of becoming a client.
The 4 Questions Before You Start
It’s closely related to the four most important question you need to answer before you start to sell, see HERE
- What problem do I solve
- What’s my value proposition
- Who’s my target market
- What’s my USP
Where to Ask Qualifying Questions
There are a number of places you employ qualifying questions
- Prospecting – At the initial stage of turning ‘sales suspects’ into prospects. This is the most important time to employ qualifying questions. It’s a big time and effort saver.
- Sales Discovery – During the sales discovery phase of the sales cycle. Typically, we ask a series of open-ended questions to encourage the customer to share information about their business, their pain points, and the outcomes they need
- Sales Closing – During the sale closing phase we employ discovery questions more to emphasise implications. However, this is a topic in its own right
Other discovery questions can centre around sales approval or the buying process with the potential customer.
If you’re trying to sell outsourced bookkeeping services, you might ask the questions:
- Can I ask you do you have a Finance Director in place?
- Do you have an in-house finance team or does someone else external to the business look after that?
If for example you’re selling a wellness programme, you might ask the question:
- Can I ask you do you have a wellness programme in place?
They may read as obvious questions, they may even be questions you think you know the answer to, but you can’t assume that. At this early stage, questions like this fulfil a number of purposes:
- It helps to build rapport. Most people like to talk about themselves, what they know and what their business does, especially if they are a decision maker
- You qualify if this is a genuine business opportunity
- It helps you to relax and move the conversation into more challenging questions
Word to the wise; at this initial stage you don’t get to ask too many questions as it can feel like a survey, and no one likes a survey.
Sales Discovery Examples:
- Have you any idea how much this problem is costing you?
- How do you address this issue at the moment?
- What happens if you don’t address this problem?
- Who does this problem effect?
This phase of the sales process requires active listening, empathy, and a genuine interest in understanding the customer’s perspective. Although ‘why’ maybe the most important question in sales, at this point avoid it, ‘any particular reason’ may come across better.
It also may help identify potential objections and concerns that the customer may have and be able to address them later.
So there are a number of places to employ qualifying questions, if you understand the phases of the sales cycle, you can design questions to move from ‘suspect’ to ‘new business’.
HERE’S an example of more discovery questions