3 Steps to Uncover the Right Sales-Qualifying Questions for Your Company

August 9, 2018 | Kirsten Lyons


Updated March 1, 2019

Any good salesperson knows that “coffee is for closers”.

But often overlooked in the world of sales is the critical part the right sales-qualifying questions play in getting you to that coffee. Today, marketers need to nurture leads longer and spend a lot of time and effort engaging prospects in order to sort the leads ready for sales from the ones that need more work. 

So, what happens when all this time, effort, and money is spent nurturing the wrong leads? Poor sales. To effectively drive revenue, sales teams need the right leads…the leads actively engaging and primed for conversion. But how can marketers send more accurately qualified leads to the sales team? With the right sales-qualifying questions.

Understanding what questions to ask can make all the difference when it comes to lead qualification. Unfortunately, every business is different…what works for one marketing team might not work for another.

The literally hundreds of blogs offering sample qualifying questions all boast anywhere from the 10 to the 70 questions everyone should be asking. But what they don’t mention, however, is how to find the questions that suit your business and the unique prospects you need to qualify.

That’s why we broke down the process of strategically selecting sales-qualifying questions down for you. Today we’ll explore the three steps process for arming your team with the most effective qualifying questions:

  1. The basics: firmographic and demographic data
  2. The messaging zoom out: come back to what sets you apart
  3. The nitty gritty: what to ask based on your sales framework

Let’s get started!

The basics: firmographic and demographic data

 

These are the nuts and bolts of your qualifying questions. Here we are really focusing on firmographic and demographic data that make someone a good fit for you in terms of utilization and price point — is your prospect a company large enough to reasonably afford your solution or product? Will it put undue stress on their budget?

Within this level of qualification we are weeding out round pegs for square holes. No matter how hard you try, how expertly you nurture, or how skilled your sales team is, if the budget or need isn’t there, you can’t create it.

Here we are looking for two kinds of data about your future customers:

Firmographic: this is the hard facts about a business that make them a good fit or not. How many employees do they have? How much is their annual revenue?

Demographic: these are attributes the actual users and buyers of your product or solution used to tailor messaging.

Buyer persona: domain of marketers

By combining your firmographic and demographic criteria with qualitative information marketers often build buyer personals to guide messaging.

Doing comprehensive buyer persona research collaboratively between marketing and sales is critical for the overall success of your qualification effort.

When you’re finished with your research, your personas might look something like this:

buyer persona

(source)

In modern marketing, particularly in the B2B space, sophisticated marketing organizations often share in, if not own, much of this baseline work to speed longer sales cycles and prequalify leads. Where some of us are gating PDF’s to get this information, others are using interactive content to qualify their leads and still others use a variety of other marketing activities to track down this information.

More on how marketers can better qualify leads with qualifying questions here.

 

The messaging zoom out: Qualifying thoughtfully

 

Once you have questions outlined to weed out the round-peg-square-hole bad fits with firmographic and demographic data, you are ready to move into the good stuff.

The next thing you’ll need to understand is a framework for how good sales people get prospects to buy: by confirming they have the Authority, Need, Urgency, and Money necessary to move your relationship forward (read more on this framework here).

ANUM outline


(Source)

While you can easily search for standard questions that speak to these basic concepts…

sales-qualifying-questions

Understanding what the most effective qualifying questions for your business requires more than a google search.

Instead of picking standardized questions, start by examining your messaging, digging into your unique value proposition, and explicitly stating what sets you apart from your competitors.

Then you can approach selecting and writing qualifying questions that satisfy the ANUM framework by thinking critically about who you are as a company as it relates to each element necessary to turn a lead into a customer.

The nitty gritty: Asking the right questions:

 

Let’s think about your company’s product or solution in the context of the components of qualifying a lead (ANUM):

Authority:

Buying authority is about making sure you have the right people in the room and in a dialogue to move forward on decision making.

What should you consider in crafting your qualifying questions?

  • What does an ideal customer look like for you? This is where all of that buyer persona research we talked about earlier comes in. You can also start with who you your most successful customers have been in terms of ROI and work backwards from how those decisions were made in terms of buying authority to help you craft questions around authority that have worked for your business long term in the past.
  • Who uses your product? Is it the same person who will purchase your product? Instead of just making sure you have the purchase power in the room, your long-term relationship with your new customer will benefit from making sure you have all your stakeholders involved in the process.

 

 

Need:

This step in the process is about both understanding your prospects current needs, and deepening that need throughout the sales process.

What should you consider in crafting your qualifying questions?

  • What is your unique value proposition? How can you tailor the need you create to the results your most successful customers see?
  • How are you different than your competitors? Here you can construct a problem where your solution is uniquely positioned in the market, in a way that your competitors won’t match up — sneaky, right?

Urgency:

Understanding and creating urgency for your prospects is also a critical step in the sales process, and one that requires carefully crafted qualifying questions. This step helps you understand your prospect’s priorities as they are at the beginning of your conversations, and make sure you spend your time efficiently.

What should you consider in crafting your qualifying questions?

  • What kind of sales processes are you set up to be successful in organizationally? Is a lead, who may be a great fit but whose organization requires an RFP process a worthwhile target for you? Do you have the time and resources to dedicate to winning an account like that or should you focus on less time-intensive deals?
  • What kind of results do your customers see when they are replacing a current solution with yours vs. onboarding a brand new product or solution? Being able to know the difference and effectively communicate it to your prospects will help you create and assess urgency more effectively.

Money:

Nobody likes talking about it, but marketers and salespeople alike know that at the end of the day we are selling things, and expect payment in return. Assessing this aspect of a purchase decision with a prospect can be daunting and feel like a fixed, yes or no situation: can they afford you or can’t they? However, with the right qualifying questions you can get to that answer faster, and get more yeses.

What should you consider in crafting your qualifying questions?

  • What other tools or solutions do your successful customers generally have in place that complement yours? Understanding the investment in complementary solutions can help you better assess the budget your prospect is working with, and can help you prove value down the line.
  • How much ROI have your most successful customers seen with your solution? Could that be used as a proof point for prospects with less robust budgets?

 

Final Thoughts

 

Qualifying your leads effectively starts with asking the right qualifying questions for your company. From gathering basic firmographic and demographic information throughout the early discovery process via marketing, to exploring your unique messaging, to assessing how your questions can fit into a proven sales framework, customization is key. If you follow these three steps you can set both your marketing and sales team up for success, seamlessly converting leads to customers.

Download this cheat sheet with 10 sales-approved lead qualifying questions to help you uncover intent and deliver the quality leads that sales wants.


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