27 Sales-Qualifying Questions to Determine Your Best Leads

Sean Lund-Brown

When your business generates new leads, they're tossed into your sales pipeline – but you know as a business owner that not all of these leads pan out. One of the biggest challenges in sales is knowing how to sift through the pile and look at leads critically. We're highlighting some sales-qualifying questions to help you determine the most fitting and serious leads for your business.

Why sales-qualifying questions make a difference

Not all leads are created equal, and some are just more valuable than others. Wasting time on a lead that's dead on arrival only takes away from time you could be spending with someone who's actually ready to purchase.

Sales-qualifying questions serve a wide variety of purposes for your sales team. Qualifying your potential sales can help provide clarity, identify problem areas and pain points, and ultimately, help your sales team use their energy in the most effective way possible. They're a helpful tool to get the most out of your leads.

In this article, we've broken these questions down into categories:

1. Budget

2. Value

3. Challenges

4. Identity

5. Need

6. Urgency

7. Contact

It's important to use the right sales-qualifying questions to find the most serious leads that fit your business. Remember that all of these questions may not be suitable for your industry. Every sales situation is unique and requires a distinct approach. Be mindful of your specific needs.

Budget questions

While often an uncomfortable subject, money is an essential place to start when you're determining whether or not a lead is a good fit. The lead you're talking to may not even have the budget available to match your price point.

Understanding your potential clients' budget concerns and limitations can be a tough conversation to navigate. Just remember that it's your job to meet your lead's needs, too. And if your lead can't afford or is unwilling to pay for your services, it could be a waste of time and energy for both of you. Qualify the lead in terms of their budget — how much they're spending currently and how much they're willing to spend.

If you're comfortable and prepared to talk about financing options, they likely will be, too. Some useful budgeting questions are:

1. What's your available budget for fixing this problem?

Unsurprisingly, business decisions usually revolve around money. No matter how exceptional your product or services may be, if your lead can't afford it, they won't buy. This question can be effective since most buyers are curious about pricing.

Just be intentional with using the word "budget." This can be a trigger word for buyers wary of predatory salesmanship tactics. Be clear that you want to be conscious of their budget, helping them find the best and most affordable options for them.

2. How does the purchase approval process work in your company?

This question is useful for a couple of reasons. First, it can help identify decision-makers within the company. Understanding who is making the financial decisions is important during a sale.

Second, understanding how the purchase approval process works can give you insight into the company itself — for instance, how long the sale could hang in limbo waiting for someone's signature. Uncovering details regarding the approval process may help you work your way up the ladder and ensure that you're talking to the person responsible for the budget. Spending time pitching and demonstrating your value to a person who can't actually make a purchase decision may not be the best use of your time.

3. How much are you currently dedicating to this problem?

This question helps you to gauge what the current conditions are like. In all likelihood, you aren't the first or even second solution they have attempted. They're probably having a similar conversation with your competitors.

Establish upfront how they've prioritized solving this problem in the past. Whatever the issue may be, they're likely spending money on it now. They may even be fixing issues on the back end, causing more problems.

This question can also help you set a mental benchmark. How much is this company paying to solve their issue? Since they're talking with you, you can assume their current solution isn't working as planned.

Once you've established their current budget, consider follow-up questions like these:

● How much would you be willing to spend to solve your problem?

● Would you be willing to spend slightly more to achieve better results?

● Do you think the results you want would be worth investing in?

These questions can help you uncover their motivation and budgetary restrictions.

Questions about value

You know your product or service has value. But does your client? It's your job to help them see it. Ask questions to help determine what the client is looking for. This is important for qualifying leads and for emphasizing the value you can bring.

Alternatively, they might see the value in what you're offering, but they may not necessarily see it in your brand. Are you a good fit? Help them see what your team brings to the table. Some helpful value-related questions include:

4. How well does our product or service match what you're looking for?

To qualify buyers, you need to understand what their qualifications are. Asking about your product with respect to their needs can help them see how well you align with what they want. If a buyer indicates that your product or service isn't a good fit, stop prioritizing that lead — don't push a sale that isn't there. Instead, go back to your pool and find a lead whose needs align with what you're offering.

A small intake team could vet this initial matching process to prevent your top sales agents from spending time on a potentially unsuccessful client. The virtual receptionists over at Smith.ai can help you with your customer intake no matter when they contact you, so you never miss a possible client.

5. How much value could this package or product provide your company?

This question is a good way to take the buyer's temperature. Lead up to this question by explaining some key features of your services or product. Demonstrate your company's value and show how it can help. If their response to this question is unsure or unexcited, this may be another opportunity to emphasize the benefits of using your product or services.

You can use this question to encourage the buyer to imagine themselves enjoying the benefits you offer. When they say the extent of the value out loud, it can cement their decision to give it a try.

6. What features seem the most valuable to you?

When you're on a sales call with a lead, make no mistake — they're evaluating you. Also, and perhaps more importantly, every detail of the product or services you offer. This question helps explain their problem and purpose. It can also provide a fuller understanding of the customer's sense of value.

Remember that value means different results to different companies. Here are a few examples:

● Financial return

● Time saved

● Workforce multiplied

● Better customer experience

● Good PR

● Faster processes

● Enjoyment

If a customer mentions a specific feature, make a note of it. This can be useful when you're communicating with this lead in the future.

Questions about challenges

When trying to make a sale, most salespeople understand that objections, excuses, and challenges are part of the game. So instead of waiting for these concerns to pop up by themselves, it can be a good idea to bring up the subject first.

You want to understand your prospects as much as you possibly can. This means understanding what is standing in their way of making a purchase. Asking questions about the obstacles and challenges can give you a better idea of where they are in the decision-making process. Asking the prospect about these issues first gives you the chance to bring them up in a way that will benefit you.

Some questions involving challenges and obstacles that you may find useful are:

7. What problem are you trying to solve?

This is the reason you're talking to them, right? Asking this question indicates that you're focused on their needs and problems. Asking about their problems (even if you have a general idea) can give you a better sense of what is going wrong and why your company can help. Identifying a problem area is why this prospect called (or accepted a call) from you in the first place.

Find out how they see the problem from their perspective. This can give you several insights and enable you to see the challenge from their eyes. Try to speak from a place of understanding and acknowledge why their issue is a problem. Then, you can demonstrate the solution that your product or service may provide.

This question can get to the heart of the matter by simply determining what needs to be solved.

8. What is your main challenge at the moment?

While similar to number seven, this question is distinctly different. Asking about their main challenge will allow them to expand specifically on how their problem affects them. It can identify additional challenges they see as a customer in the sales process beyond the basic problem they've already described.

9. Are you evaluating other solutions? What other solutions are you considering?

Business owners often shop around to find marketing solutions, but these questions still let you know what you're up against. If a buyer mentions they're considering one of your competitors, this is your chance to make a powerful impression. Instead of pretending like your competition doesn't exist, acknowledge them and demonstrate why you're a better option.

10. What other strategies have you tried to solve your problem?

Your prospect has likely attempted to address this problem in the past, and they're currently trying different strategies. This question can allow your lead to open up about why their previous solutions have failed (or not worked effectively enough).

Consider this a great jumping-off point for you to mention certain unique features you offer that may work better for them than other services they have used in the past. Take advantage of the opportunity to compare and contrast.

11. What potential obstacles do you anticipate?

This allows you to see whether this lead is worth it. The prospective client may say there are no obstacles, which is the best-case scenario. In other cases, there may be a specific person, a new policy in place, or any number of other barriers stopping a purchase. Identifying these hurdles can help you see whether or not a specific lead is a good fit for your business.

12. What could stop your company from moving forward with us?

Knowing deal breakers for a potential client is valuable. Asking this question allows a prospect to indicate to you what they won't accept. This question is most important early on in a sales conversation. If you ask this of a buyer early on and they give you a whole list of answers, it may be time to move on to a more serious lead.

Identity questions

When making or taking a sales call, understand exactly who you're talking to. If this person isn't a decision-maker within the company or needs supervisory approval, this could be the right place to shift your approach.

However, identity isn't based only on job title. Taking the prospect's individual perspective into account is important, too. You will want to understand how your product or services will directly impact your lead. Even if they aren't a decision-maker, they can still influence the people who are.

Understanding the identity of the company is important, too.

● Do they have an established brand?

● What do they value?

● What do their customers value?

● How do they see themselves growing?

To find out about the identity of your prospect (and the company they work for), you may want to try one or more of the following sales-qualifying questions:

13. What is your job title?

This simple question can provide you or your sales associate with a lot of valuable information. Once you have established who you're speaking with (in the company's context), you can evaluate whether or not this is your target audience and adjust. Knowing what role your prospect holds may allow you to take a more personalized approach.

14. What is your role within the purchase approval process?

This is a way to be a little less direct and still get the information you need. Getting a clearer picture of the purchase approval process and your prospects' role within that procedure can help you plan for specific obstacles. Identify where your lead fits into the purchase approval process and the steps in the process. This helps to filter out less serious leads.

But remember that just because you're not talking with the ultimate decision-maker doesn't mean that you should hang up just yet. This could be a great opportunity to ask who the best person would be to talk to or schedule an appointment. You can also ask more questions now, so you're more informed during the next conversation.

15. How would this solution help you on a day-to-day basis?

Prioritizing leads involves building a connection. You're much more likely to convert a sale if you have established some kind of relationship and understanding with them. This question allows you to open that door. How does your prospect view your product or services? How can it help this individual that you're talking to?

You've already established their role, so you know their place in the purchase approval process. Now is the time to understand what they're looking for individually. An appeal to the individual who will be helped the most by your company's solution can go a long way.

16. Who is responsible for (the service your company provides)?

A quick way to determine if a lead will be profitable (and worth your time) is to contact the person currently handling that responsibility for the company.

In other words, if you're offering marketing services, speaking with the marketing director can save you a whole lot of time. Establish what the company is currently doing well, how they can improve, and emphasize how your product or services can enhance their strengths and improve their weaknesses.

Go straight to the source.

17. I'd like to get your thoughts on (the issue you're addressing). Does this matter to you?

While typically sales questions are open-ended, this is a simple yes or no. If a prospect says no, this is actually helpful. At this point, you can quickly evaluate whether there's room to help them see the need or if it's time to say goodbye.

If they answer yes, ask why it's important to them as an individual. People appreciate and respond to the opportunity to feel heard.

Need-based questions

As a business, you want to serve your customer in the best way possible and identify what they need to make a sale happen. So, what do they need? You're there to help with that.

All too often, sales associates get bogged down in their pitch. As every good sales associate knows, listening to and understanding your prospect's needs is important. Without it, you can't help them. These questions can easily and thoroughly help you gain a complete understanding of their business goals.

18. What is your (company's) top priority right now?

Determining their priorities can help you decide whether you need to prioritize them as a lead. Let's say you're offering a marketing service. If you ask for the company's top priority and they indicate that staffing, manufacturing, or product quality are their biggest issues, maybe your marketing service isn't a good fit at this time.

On the other hand, your prospect may indicate that they aren't retaining enough customers. This provides you with an opportunity to inform the prospect about your services and how their needs align.

19. What results are you expecting (from the product or services your company offers)?

This is a straightforward way to gain insight into the company's short-term goals. Do they see it as essential? Experimental? A last-ditch effort? Knowing what your client is hoping to achieve can also help you know if they're a good fit (and worth your time).

Are their expectations realistic? Achievable? Asking about their expectations can also teach you more about their view of you and your product.

20. Which features of our product or services seem the most interesting?

This is a way for you to isolate which aspects of your product attract the customer. This way, you understand more clearly what your client actually needs. Narrowing your focus can allow you to direct the conversation towards the more appealing features of your offer.

Asking the opposite question (which features seem the least interesting) can have the same impact. It could be a chance to highlight other aspects that could make up for what they don't see.

21. What made you consider our company?

Your lead may have seen an ad or heard about you from a friend. Whatever the reason, this lead came across your company and is spending time talking to you. This can help you identify which marketing efforts are working better than others.

If a prospect isn't familiar with your company, this is a great time to change that. Explain your company's mission, goals, and achievements.

Urgency questions

Are they ready to act? If you speak with a lead who's prepared to take the next step, you can push their name to the top of your list. Every action brings them closer to commitment.

Asking specific questions regarding time can help prioritize leads and your own scheduling. If a prospect is vague or noncommittal regarding a timeline, they probably aren't ready to act (or at least, not ready yet.) Remember, time is money. You don't want to ignore less urgent leads, of course, but you'll consider them a lower priority compared to those ready to get started now. Some questions you may consider are:

22. When does your issue (or problem) need to be solved?

This cuts right to the heart of the matter. Yes, your prospect may be contacting you to do some research and learn more about your product. But what if there was a recent shakeup? New leadership or changing roles can bring a need for change in other ways.

Other situations that spark that sense of urgency include a website crash, a significant expansion, or even pending litigation. Any of these issues could leave a company looking for a solution now. Your product or services could get them back on the right track quickly.

23. When do you plan to make a decision?

This question is a gentle but firm way of asking your prospect to establish a timeline. Your prospect may not be sure of a timeline yet. That's fine, of course, but it establishes that there is no sense of urgency on their end.

Alternatively, setting an actual date for them to decide can inspire more of a sense of urgency going forward. The most serious leads typically have a timeline in mind in many cases. Some other prospects may need a gentle nudge to get them moving in the right direction.

24. What made you decide to act on this now?

Remember, you want to find a prospect that's a good fit for you. You want a motivated, empowered lead (able to make buying decisions) with a timeline in mind. This question may be the simplest way to determine urgency and motivation. Possible motives may include:

● The company pushed this issue to the side because it wasn't a priority.

● A person who was an obstacle to the solution changed their mind or position.

● The business didn't fully understand the issue and has recently realized the urgency.

● Their budget was recently expanded.

Understanding why this company has chosen to act now informs the lead's motivation and time constraints.

Contact questions

We are all connected digitally to one another. Questions about how the client contacted you can help establish their needs and motivation. Going forward, this can help your business's big picture as well. Contact questions also help to establish a line of communication going forward.

A prospect is more likely to do business with someone they're more familiar with. Build rapport, learn more about the prospect (and their business), and make plans to continue communicating in the future. This same process goes for former clients. Do not forget about them. Constant contact with existing clients is just as important as getting new clients.

Asking prospective clients questions about their contact preferences is a respectful way to give you clues to how valuable a prospect may be. Try these questions to determine which leads are serious and the best fit for you:

25. How do you prefer to keep in touch?

These days, there are a million different ways to stay connected. Phone calls, emails, texts, and social media posts are just a few more commonly used methods. With all these options, most people have a preference.

Simply asking about their preferred communication method can tell you a lot. This is easy enough if a lead indicates that they don't want to keep in touch. Potential clients may prefer email or texts to phone calls in other cases. If this is the case, stick to it. Another benefit to this question is that it allows you to verify contact information for the prospect. While it may seem basic, communicating in their preferred way shows that you're listening and responsive to their needs.

Also, be mindful of their time outside of office hours. Your clients have a life outside of work, just like you, and being respectful of that time can go a long way towards fostering your relationship.

26. Are you available to schedule a meeting on (specific date)?

An in-person or digital meeting invitation is taking the next step. Remember to pick a specific date and notice how they react to this suggestion. They may not want to schedule a follow-up yet. In this case, a follow-up email or call (their preference) in a week or two may help keep you in mind.

However, they may want to meet sooner, which is great news for you. This indicates that they're serious and ready to move forward with you and your company. Get a meeting on the books, and then confirm the meeting a day or two out to ensure they will attend.

27. What can I do to help get us to the next step?

That's what you want, isn't it? Sometimes being straightforward is a good way to go! This question helps in a couple of ways. First, it establishes that you're there to help this person. You want to do anything you can to get this person the help they need. This comes off as caring and considerate.

Secondly, it shows your intentions. Your goal is to get to the next step. Also, asking how to get "us" to the next step implies teamwork or camaraderie. Show the prospect that you're with them and desire to help them solve their issue. You simply want to help them get to the next step. If a client balks at this question or gives unclear answers, it may be better to move on. If the client has specific requests for you, you're ready to move forward with a serious lead.

How Smith.ai can help identify great leads

Evaluating leads with the right questions is critical for an efficient and effective sales team. Creating a customized set of qualifying questions will make an enormous difference in determining which leads are the most fitting and serious. Using the questions above, you can prioritize leads. That way, your employees aren't spending too much time on leads that won't pan out.

If your sales team needs support connecting with potential leads, Smith.ai can help. With live-staffed website chat services and outbound sales and support calls, you'll have a chance to connect with potential customers 24/7. We offer SMS message answering, appointment scheduling, and payment services. We also have live, bilingual agents available to give your customers a personal touch.

You can also use our lead screening service to weed out unqualified contacts. You'll get information and context to give you the best chance at closing. To keep your sales team focused on leads with potential, contact Smith.ai and book your free 30-minute consultation. During your call, you can learn more about our services and pricing as well as our 14-day money-back guarantee.

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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