The sales process is simple. If you feel like you're jumping through hoops and chasing prospects in circles, you're doing something wrong.
The truth is, the sales process is a series of straightforward and organized steps. When you follow them, your potential to close more deals in less time is limitless.
And, one of the first steps in the sales process is qualifying leads. Not only is it one of the first steps, but it's also one of the most disastrous for many sales teams.
What can sales teams do to make qualifying leads easier, more effective, and less potentially catastrophic?
By asking prospects the right questions!
It might sound simple (which it is), but asking your prospects the right questions is key to laying the foundation for a successful sales cycle!
Now, you might be saying to yourself, "my sales reps already ask plenty of questions, and we still get nowhere!".
If that's you, know that many of the most common sales questions that mainstream sources tell you to ask are simply ineffective, and in many cases cause prospects to run away!
With that said, successfully qualifying leads is about asking fewer, high quality questions, rather than many sub-par ones.
Want to simplify your qualification process to close out the sales cycle more successfully?
Avoid asking the wrong questions, and start asking the right ones. Follow this guide to simplify your qualification process and improve the overall success of your sales cycle!
Why Asking the Right Questions is Crucial in B2B Sales
After hearing back for the first time from a lead, the next step in the sales process is to set up an initial sales call or meeting. The primary goal of that meeting is to further qualify the lead.
While you should have already done some qualification to generate the lead in the first place, an extra layer of qualification is still necessary to ensure that the prospect is a solid fit. Being a solid fit means that they fit your ideal prospect profile.
And, the most effective way to qualify prospects is by asking them the right questions!
Asking the right questions allows you to draw information out of the prospects about who they are, what challenges they face, and what solutions they need to get to a better place.
The more information you have, the better you can decipher whether or not your prospect fits the ideal profile.
Get your entire sales team on board with asking questions that will help draw out as much information as possible.
However, it's crucial to know that not all qualifying questions are created equal!
Some questions you can ask actually do the opposite of helping you draw out information about your prospect. Instead, they cause a copious amount of issues, including:
- Wasting time for both parties
- Making prospects feel cornered or uncomfortable
- Not actually drawing out the information you need.
Therefore, don't just train your sales reps to ask questions during the qualification meetings! Instead, focus on getting them to ask only the best questions.
Additionally, asking these questions can take place either over a sales call or in person. But, whenever given the chance, we highly suggest qualifying your prospects in person, as it often leads to an overall more effective sales cycle.
Asking the right questions = getting the right information = you know whether or not you and your prospect are meant for one another = a smoother sales process down the road.
Don't waste time asking the wrong questions! Instead, ask only a select few of the right ones to get the job done.
10 Important Qualifying Questions You Should Ask (& Not Ask) Every Prospect
Every sales professional who wants to make more sales in less time needs to know which qualifying questions to ask and which to avoid!
Below is a list of some of the best and worst qualifying questions that salespeople can ask.
Of the best ones, while they aren't the only ones you should be asking your prospects, they are some of the most powerful ones at helping draw out information.
Of the worst ones, avoid asking them at all cost! They are the kinds of questions that waste time, make prospects feel uncomfortable, and don’t help you draw out the information you need.
Now without further ado, these are the top 10 best and worst B2B sales questions for effectively qualifying prospects!
DON’T: “Can you tell me about your business?”
Remember when you went for your first job interview and they asked you the question, "tell us about yourself"?, and it made you want to jump out of a window?
“Tell me about your business” is the equivalent question in B2B sales!
Boring, open-ended, and totally useless, asking your prospects to tell you about who they are as a business is going to get you absolutely nowhere.
It is too open-ended to get the prospect really thinking about their company’s identity.
Not only that, but it'll probably bore them to death!
If you hated the question being asked to you, don’t ask it to your prospects!
DO: “How would you describe your business to your prospects?
If you want to learn more about your prospect company’s identity, then ask them to describe it to you from the angle of their own prospects.
When they look outside of themselves to see who they are, they’re more likely to seriously question their identity and paint a more realistic picture of it.
Think of it this way…. What’s a more interesting question for someone to ask you… “what are you like” or “how would your friends describe you?”.
With the second question, you would be more likely to seriously consider your identity and question who you are as a person.
Therefore, if your goal is to get a clearer understanding of a prospect company’s identity, have your sales team get the answer indirectly by asking the question from a different angle!
DON’T: “What makes your business special?”
Asking your prospects what makes their business special is very similar to asking them to tell you about themselves.
They’re unlikely to give a straightforward answer, and more likely to get bored.
Every business has a unique value proposition. Knowing what it is can help you leverage your sale with them and enhance the solution you have to offer.
However, asking prospects straight-up what makes them special increases the odds that they don’t reciprocate with a straight-up answer.
Imagine if someone asked you …. “What makes you so special?”. Wouldn’t it be somewhat of an awkward position to be in?
DO: “Why would one of your own prospects choose you?”
Similar to asking your prospects to tell you about their identity from the eyes of their own prospects, ask them to tell you about their unique value proposition using the same tactic!
In the same way, their response will indirectly give you an idea about what makes them stand out from their competition.
Knowing what makes them unique, you can use that information to curb your sales pitches around those facts.
Prospects unconsciously like it when you repeat back to them information that they already told you about themselves! Sales psychology calls this the mirroring concept, and it's a known tool that helps close deals!
Therefore, figure out what makes your prospects unique without directly asking, and use that information to leverage yourself!
DON’T: “What are your biggest problems right now?”
In a perfect world, you would be able to solve all of your prospect company’s problems.
However, you realistically can only solve those within the scope of the solutions that your business offers.
With that said, asking your prospect company to tell you what their biggest problems are won't give you a straightforward enough answer about which of their problems that you specifically can help them with.
This is a big issue, because identifying which pain points that you can solve is one of the most important pieces of information that you need to collect during the early phases of the sales process.
Therefore, don't waste your time asking this vague question. It isn't straightforward enough to get you the serious answer you need!
DO: “How did you hear about us?”
Instead of asking a prospect what their problems are with the hopes of getting a clear answer, ask them how they heard about your business in the first place.
Surprisingly, this question indirectly reveals what the prospect's biggest pain points are!
For example, if a prospect comes to you after finding your company online, it shows that they understand what their issues are and can probably voice them to you.
Or, if a prospect responds to one of your cold calls or emails, it shows that you are tapping into one of their pain points and they can feel it.
Moreover, asking someone how they heard about you is a way of asking them which of their problems they believe you can solve.
Additionally, the answer to this question helps put into light how the prospect understands their own issues.
DON’T: “Are you happy with the way that things are going at your business?”
If one of your friends comes to you to get help with a challenging situation, would you just look at them in the face and say, "are you not happy right now?".
If your answer is no, then why would you ever ask one of your sales prospects, "are you happy with things right now?", when you know that they aren't?
The thing is, if a prospect is coming to you to help them find a solution to a problem, they clearly aren't happy with how things are currently going in their business. Or, at least, they aren’t happy with how part of it is going.
Therefore, asking this question during the sales conversation is virtually useless, and purely a waste of time.
DO: “What led you to respond to our cold call/email/referral/reach out to us?”
Instead of asking your prospects whether or not they are happy with the current state of their business, ask them what made them respond to your message or reach out to you in the first place.
If a prospect connects with you, then you know for sure that there's some kind of issue going on in their company that they are unhappy with.
And, their answer to this question gives you an even more refined answer as to what the prospect's problems are, and how they think that you can help them.
Moreover, this question helps refine which of the prospect’s pain points you are capable of solving (the most important information to gather during qualification)!
If you understand why someone is reaching out to you, you can hone in on not just what their core problem is, but what they want you to do for them.
DON’T: “What are your goals as a company?”
Asking a prospect what their goals are as a company just misses the mark in terms of the right question to ask!
You and your salespeople should care deeply about the goals of your prospect company and helping them achieve them.
The problem with this question is that it is, again, too vague and open-ended to ask.
Prospects usually have a wide range of goals, both big and small, that they want to accomplish.
However, you and your company should only interest yourselves in solving those within the scope of your company's solution.
Therefore, skip asking a prospect this open-ended question! While it shows that your intentions are in the right, the prospect’s response will most likely be too open-ended for you to do anything with.
DO: “How can we help you get to where you want to be?”
Instead of asking a prospect company what their goals are, take things in a slightly different direction by asking them how you specifically can help them get to where they want to be in the future.
Asking your prospects this question gives you a clearer vision of their expectations for you.
With those expectations, you can then devise a clear plan as to how you can fulfill those expectations. And, you can go on to create specific metrics for achievement that will help them get the results that they desire in less time.
Additionally, asking a prospect about where they want to be in the future helps draw more valuable information out about them! Instead of just getting insights on their goals, this question helps you understand more about their identity and vision.
DON’T: “Do you know what’s causing your current problems?”
Learning what your client's pain points are isn't enough. You also need to figure out what's causing them.
Understanding the causes of pain points is something that B2B salespeople often overlook during the sales process.
However, directly asking your prospects if they know what's causing their problems is a waste of time. If prospects knew what was causing their problems, don't you think they would already have addressed it?
Therefore, avoid asking this stereotypical question that is purely a waste of time! In the end, it's your job, and not your prospect’s job, to answer this question.
DO: “Do you have a current solution in place that isn’t working?”
Instead of asking prospects whether or not they know what is causing their problems, ask if they have already tried to or are currently trying to solve them with a different solution.
Knowing if they already have a solution in place and how it's working can give you more insights into your prospects' pain points and how your company can help solve them.
DON’T: “Are you nervous about working with us, or do you have any fears?”
It's super important to be transparent in a business relationship.
However, asking a prospect directly whether or not they are nervous about working with you might force them into an uncomfortable corner.
The truth is, every prospect is nervous to some degree when it comes to making a purchasing decision.
Regardless of how great the sales reps do in the sales pitches, the prospects are investing a lot of time and money into finding the right solution. They are understandably nervous as to whether or not their investment will pay off.
Therefore, you should assume that they are at least slightly uneasy, and reword your question in a way that doesn't corner them.
DO: “Is there anything that would make you want to say ‘no’ to us?”
Accept the fact that your prospects are probably nervous about working with you. It's normal, and you shouldn't take much offense to it.
Then, use the fact that your prospects are slightly uneasy to help build a more trustworthy relationship with them!
Knowing that they are nervous, ask them what their make-or-breaks are with you.
For example, ask them whether or not there is something that would absolutely break the chances of you two doing business together.
Getting that information out on the table helps build a more transparent relationship, and, of course, gives you a clearer idea of exactly what they need from you!
DON’T: “What will it take for you to say ‘yes’ to us?”
While transparency is important, asking your prospect “What will it take for you to say ‘yes’ to us?”, immediately corners them.
This question has the good intention of uncovering what the prospect’s conditions are for working with you.
However, the way that it is posed might make them feel uncomfortable.
The solution then is to ask the same question in a less direct way!
DO: “Can you describe your ideal business partnership?”
Indirectly ask your prospects what their conditions are for forming a relationship with you by asking them to describe what their ideal business partnership looks like.
Not only does this give you the information you need to foster a good relationship with them, but it lets them know that you care about meeting all of their needs.
Take their answer and use it to create a long-term business relationship!
DON’T: “Who are the decision-makers in your organization?”
When qualifying prospects, knowing who the most important people in the decision-making process are is extremely valuable information!
However, asking directly who the head decision-makers are in the buying decision can have some negative side effects. The most obvious one being offending the individuals you are already speaking with. Asking them who is in charge of the decision could make them feel as if you are looking down on them as less important people in the buying process.
Therefore, don't ask your prospects directly who the decision makers are! Asking the question could potentially alienate someone, and cause them to walk away.
DO: “Who else can we speak with to help make this process easier?”
Asking this question helps you indirectly uncover who the head decision-makers and stakeholders are in the prospect’s company.
Whomever you are talking to in the sales meetings will perceive this question as you simply wanting to know who can help move the process along. They are less likely to see it as an insult, and more likely that you are just trying to help improve the overall sales experience.
Therefore, get to know who the head decision makers are without directly asking in order to avoid insulting anyone!
DON’T: “When will you be ready for a follow-up meeting?”
Asking to set up a follow-up meeting may not seem like a qualifying question at first, but it is!
Wrapping up your initial sales meeting by asking your prospect whether or not they are ready to move into the next phase helps reveal if they were engaged in the sales conversation.
However, asking prospects "when will you be ready for a follow-up meeting?" is an ineffective question for determining whether or not they were attentive during the conversation, because it is too vague.
Not only is this question vague, but it removes power out of your hands. And, losing power in the sales process is like opening the door and asking the prospect to walk out.
Moreover, it is super important for sales professionals to gauge whether or not their prospects are ready for the next step, but this question is the wrong way to do it!
DO: “Why don’t we set up a meeting for tomorrow afternoon?”
Instead of asking the open-ended and vague question, "when will you be ready for a follow-up meeting?", ask the direct and straightforward question, "why don't we set up a meeting for tomorrow afternoon (or another time in the near future)?".
Like we mentioned above, asking the prospect when they can do a follow-up meeting solidifies that they are on the same page as you.
And, asking this question that proposes a specific timeframe not only puts you on the same page as the prospect, but allows you to take control of the situation.
If you leave setting up the follow-up to the prospect, the odds that they ghost you increase significantly. But, if you propose a specific time yourself, you effectively take control of the situation, and don't allow the prospect to slip out of your hands so easily.
Therefore, close off every initial sales call or meeting by asking your prospect to set up another meeting for within the next couple of days, or as soon as possible!
The Bottom Line: Killer B2B Sales Qualifying Questions
Asking the right questions to your B2B prospects is the key to properly qualifying them.
With the right questions, you get the right information out of them, and can determine whether or not they fit your ideal prospect profile.
In the end, asking the right questions enables you to close out more deals in less time!
If your existing sales training program doesn't teach your salespeople about both asking the right questions AND how to ask them, you have placed a very low ceiling over your business potential!