Improve Your Chances With Better Qualification Questions

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Question signOne of the most frequent questions we get asked on our sales courses is concerning the qualification stage of the sale. Many salespeople want to have a suite of questions that will get the client to open up and give them all the information they need.

Some of these questions are pretty lame, at best. Probes like ‘Do you have a budget?’ ‘Who are you currently using?’ and ‘What problems are you currently trying to solve?’ are always high on the average salespersons’ list of FAQs.

However, if we want to expand the relationship early on and want to get a whole lot more useful information, we have to dig deeper and get the prospect to open up more.

Try some of these questions instead, and you may get better results:

Instead of ‘what’s the budget?’ try saying ‘Tell me how you derived the budget for this project and whose budget will be spent’.

Here, you’re getting two answers in one question, and it increases your chances of having a more in-depth discussion. If the budget level will not cover what you know will have to be spent to cover the solution you know the prospect will need, then we have the opportunity to share our experience of what is required to get the results the prospect is seeking. It’s better for this discussion to come up now, early in the conversation, rather than two or three visits later.

Instead of ‘what are your problems?’, you can take it a little deeper with ‘How have you quantified the value of overcoming the challenges you are facing?’

Notice what this question does. It acknowledges that a problem actually exists and asks for information on how the value proposition of overcoming the problem can be justified.

You can ask if it would be helpful if you worked with the prospect to identify and define a business case so that he can see it’s worth considering the investment that’s needed to overcome it. That way, you are putting yourself up as trusted advisor, rather than salesperson.

You can now find out what timeframe your client is working to. If they say they have to make a decision within 2 weeks, you can ask what would happen if they didn’t.

This will identify if the timeframe is realistic, especially if you know that the two-week deadline is beyond your capabilities. If they answer that nothing bad would happen if the deadline wasn’t hit, then you know there isn’t much necessity to break your back to achieve the deadline.

Another question I often ask to get more information is along the lines of ‘How did you determine which suppliers to contact, and why were we one of the chosen few?’

This gets you to understand the decision-making process the prospect is going through, and it gives us an idea of what we are up against.

If you identify better qualification questions in your rapport-building sessions with prospects, you get high-level information, building knowledge of the current position and future needs of your client much quicker and easier. And you stand a better chance of forwarding the sale, as there are more reasons for your client to think of you as the main supplier of solutions to their challenges.

And talking of qualification! Did you know that the ISMM offer formal sales qualifications? We can help you with those if you have the need.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Sales Blog | Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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Originally published: 21 March, 2013