Have you ever received an inbound inquiry from a potential customer and wondered if you really are the best person to help with their needs? There’s nothing worse than spending ages attracting a customer, only to find out they were never a good fit.

To avoid wasting everyone’s precious time, it’s helpful to use qualifying questions. In this article, we’ll share ten helpful qualifying questions that will be useful in almost any industry. 

What is a qualifying question?

A qualifying question is one that helps us learn what a new business lead knows about what we offer. It also helps us know whether they’re in the right position to make a purchase from us.

Why do businesses use qualifying questions?

Once a business has a lead, it can use qualifying questions to clarify that the customer is a good fit.

This can stop other employees from spending too much time chasing poor-quality leads that aren’t right for the business.

1. What is your primary business goal?

You can’t help a business unless you truly understand what they’re trying to do. That’s why this first question is arguably the most important of all.

Your potential client will likely have two different types of goals:

·       Strategic goals: these are the long-term objectives of their organisation

·       Operational goals: these are the shorter-term milestones that need to be achieved to meet the longer-term strategic goals

If you’re able to understand your prospect’s strategic and operational goals, you’ll be in a better place to sell them the services that will help them succeed in the short and long term.

Bullseye is a target of business. Dart is an opportunity and Dartboard is the target and goal. So both of that represent a challenge in business marketing as concept.

2. Who is your target audience?

An organisation’s target audience is the group of people who are most likely to be interested in their product, service, charity or campaign.

This might be a very niche audience, or for the biggest brands it could be literally everyone on the planet. But whoever your prospect is targeting, it’s important you know exactly who.

If they’re targeting a niche audience that you’ll struggle to reach, it might be better to politely decline their business. 

Alternatively, if they’re looking to reach an audience you know very well, you might be able to use your experience to clinch the deal. 

3. What’s your timeline?

It’s possible to do a job quickly. It’s possible to do a job well. And it’s possible to do a job cheaply. But it’s almost never possible to do all three.

If your potential new customer wants to engage your services, it’s almost certain you’ll know more about your area of expertise than they will. Frustratingly, that might often mean they don’t have a realistic idea of how quickly it is (and isn’t) possible to get things done.

If you know what timeline they’re working to, you can adjust what you’re offering to fit their requirements. If they need a good job done rapidly, you might be able to hire freelancers or pay people overtime to make sure it’s done to a high standard before their deadline. Alternatively, you might be able to reduce the scope of the job so that it’s possible to complete it according to their timescale.

But most importantly, you can’t do anything to help if you don’t know what their timings are.

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4. What’s the biggest pain point you’re trying to resolve?

Your prospect might think of you as a company that only provides a specific service, but if you’re able to reframe yourself as someone who solves problems, it might unlock a whole new set of services for you to sell.

For example, your potential client might come to you saying they need IT support. But on further investigation, it turns out the real problem is how their internal IT teams are structured. This creates an opportunity for you to sell them a consultancy service which helps them restructure their internal team.

They get their problem solved, and you get to sell a more valuable service. It’s a win-win, but only because you took the time to understand their real pain point.

Businessman facing a big stone wall to represent qualifying questions challenge

5. What prompted you to take action now?

Asking why your potential customer is choosing to take action now can be an effective way of understanding the broader context they’re operating in.

For example, if they’re in the middle of a crisis, they probably won’t have time to fix deeper structural issues. Instead, they’ll be looking for someone to fix their immediate short-term problems. 

Alternatively, if they’re talking to you as part of their normal business planning cycle, it might be the right moment for them to take a step back and look at their issue through a more strategic lens.

This question can also be a helpful way of identifying the political context within their organisation. For example, if you know that they’re looking to fix this issue now because their CEO has made it a priority, this will then likely unblock many of the internal obstacles you would usually face.

Athlete runner feet running on road

6. What’s stopped you from trying to solve the problem until now?

Asking this qualifying question can also be an effective way of identifying potential blockages. For example, if they say that their issue has not been solved because of a lack of internal consensus over a solution, you can prepare your proposal with the knowledge that you’ll have to do extra work to research the problem and make a compelling case to get buy-in from important internal stakeholders. 

This question can also be a helpful way of finding out what unsuccessful solutions they’ve tried before. That can help both of you save time and money by avoiding ideas that have been shown not to work.

7. Are you looking at other products/services?

When you’re talking to a prospective customer, it can be helpful to know about the competition you’re up against. The prospect might not be willing to tell you who they’re talking to. But if they are, you can research your rivals and tactfully emphasise where you think you have an advantage.

Are they new players in this space? By asking this qualifying question, you can emphasise your long track record and position yourself as a safe pair of hands (“No one ever got fired for buying IBM”). Are they significantly cheaper than you? You can justify your higher prices by explaining the better quality service you’ll be providing.

Businessman with binoculars spying on competitors resenting probing qualifying questions

8. Have you used a similar product/service in the past?

This qualifying question can be a great way of identifying the client’s pain points or pet peeves, without being too direct.

For example, if they’ve worked with a competitor but ended up leaving because of their poor customer service, then you know that your own customer service has to be absolutely spot-on. Alternatively, if you know the prospect used a different supplier in the past but stopped using them because their approach didn’t work, you know you need to propose a radically different solution.

Young caucasian man make choose between two similar goods. Shopping in supermarket or grocery

9. What’s your budget?

Let’s be honest, it’s often a little bit awkward talking about money. When you’re speaking with a prospective customer about their problems and how you might be able to help, it can feel almost mercenary to bring up how much they’re willing to pay.

But even if your prospect is playing their cards close to their chest, it’s worth trying to nail them down on their budget. Sometimes, customers might have a completely unrealistic expectation of how much something will cost. On other occasions, there might be a mismatch as they’re looking for a cheap-and-cheerful option, while you’re offering something top-of-the-range.

Magnifying glass and documents with analytics data lying on table

Often, there’s room for a bit of give-and-take. But if you’re on completely different wavelengths about how much a job should cost, it’s good to know as soon as possible to avoid wasting everybody’s time.

10. What can I do today to help you make a decision?

Lengthy decision-making processes don’t only cost you time and money, they cost the customer too. Of course, for important decisions, there’s nothing wrong with taking time to consider all angles to make sure they’re making the right decision. But if you can do anything to speed up the process and reduce the amount of time the customer has to spend weighing up different options, it’ll make everyone’s lives easier.

Directly asking what you can do to help them make a decision will prompt them to think more clearly about their needs. And, who knows, you might unearth a valuable nugget of information you’d never have otherwise known.

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Do you need help with your lead qualification?

Ultimately, your business is built on finding new customers. But it’s not always easy to qualify leads without investing a wasteful amount of time and money.

But we can help.

Worried you’re leaving the best leads to your competitors? Click here to learn more about how our lead qualification service can help you.