The Anatomy of a Qualifying Question

August 20, 2019 | Kirsten Lyons

Marketers aren’t mind readers. However, we often give it the old college try in our quest to uncover the right leads to pass to sales, making educated guesses about who is ready to pull the trigger, and whose problems can be best solved by our solution. 


Because we can’t actually read our prospects minds, many marketers have opted to use behavior and interaction with content and campaigns as a proxy for an understanding of what our prospects are thinking. But more and more marketers are waking up to the harsh reality that we are not, in fact, as good at this whole mind reading thing as we might have previously thought…and it shows: Only 13% of MQLs convert to opportunities. 

But there’s another option: we can accept that we are not mind readers, and open a dialogue with prospects to identify high quality leads that are the most likely to convert to opportunities and ultimately become customers. 

Thanks to the attention economy creating scarcity around time we have in front of our prospects, marketers need to maximize the value they can extract from opportunities for dialogue with prospects. This means leveraging questions across content and campaigns that uncover real buying intent and valuable qualifying information, and the best way to do that is to develop a killer set of qualifying questions unique to your business. 

What makes a great qualifying Question?

Marketers can only foster effective dialogue with prospects when the questions they ask reveal the attributes that get leads through a sales process effectively. Ultimately, qualifying questions need to uncover three key pillars of quality leads: capacity, need, and buying intent.

Let’s explore how to construct each of these key pillars within your qualifying questions. 

Pillar 1: Capacity

Qualifying questions should identify whether your prospects have the capacity to benefit from your solution. For a lead to turn into a customer (and for a customer to become an advocate rather than churn) establishing their capacity to effectively leverage your solution is critical. 

This pillar of your qualifying question strategy serves to help your team identify whether key factors are in place for them to see value from your solution. While qualifying questions need to be tailored to your business to be effective, you can start by adapting concepts in the sample questions below to uncover your prospects’ capacity:

Try adapting these questions: 

  • How many people are on your team?
  • Do you have [X technology supporting your solution] in place?
  • Do you have a strict budget?

Pillar 2: Need

Great qualifying questions also surface whether prospects are displaying need. Your need-focused qualifying questions help identify whether your solution lines up with a prospects’ priorities and problems, and if they are feeling urgency around addressing them. This is a critical aspect to focus on, especially for marketers who have a less robust lead scoring process in place now. Just because a company matches the firmographic and demographic data within an identified buying persona doesn’t mean that they have an identified need your solution can address.. 

When marketers can align their solution with prospects needs, content and campaigns as well as sales processes can be tailored to personalized the nurture process to provide a seamless buying process. Use the questions below to start uncovering which of your prospects have a real need for your solution.

Try adapting these questions: 

  • What is pushing you to search for a new solution?
  • What is your top priority for the next 6 months?
  • How do you think your company stacks up against competitors?

Pillar 3: Buying Intent

Ensuring qualifying questions uncover buying intent helps separate leads that seem like a good fit on paper from the leads that should be sent to sales immediately. When marketers can effectively uncover buying intent buy constructing the right qualifying questions, prioritizing the best leads becomes a no-brainer. 

Even if your prospect reports a clear need for and capacity to benefit from your solution, buying intent is ultimately the factor that predicts conversions and faster sales cycles. Start with the questions below to uncover the best leads for your business.

Try adapting these questions: 

  • What is your timeline for adoption and deployment?
  • How do you want to impact your company within the next year?
  • What can our company offer you next?

Final Thoughts

While we can’t read our prospects’ minds, asking the right questions is almost as good. By developing a unique set of qualifying questions that surfaces prospects’ capacity, need, and buying intent relative to their solution, marketers can prioritize the leads most likely to convert to opportunities, and help sales close better deals, faster. That’s what we call a win-win!

Learn more about how the right qualifying questions can transform your marketing in our guide.

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