In sales, qualifying your leads allows you to narrow down your lead list and find customers who are likely to make a purchase from you. Once you've sorted out your leads and identified the true prospects, you can move customers confidently through the sales process and close more sales.
What Is It Important to Qualify Leads?
If you don't fully qualify your leads early on, you'll end up wasting valuable time pursuing customers who will never buy from you.
Making a sale goes beyond finding customers who need what you are selling. You need to find the set of customers within that group who:
- Have sufficient interest in what you're selling to want to buy it.
- Have the ability, both financially and logistically, to purchase it.
A prospect must meet both these criteria to be a qualified lead.
How Do Salespeople Find Qualified Leads?
Qualifying leads is usually done with a series of questions that allow you to learn more about your prospect's needs, level of interest, and ability to buy.
Qualifying is always a balancing act between leaving enough time to build rapport without waiting so long that you've wasted everyone's time. Many salespeople manage this balance by asking a few very basic qualifying questions during the cold call or initial meeting to weed out the obviously unqualified folks.
Questions about budget or finances then come later in the sales process, once you already have customers' interest and have gained their trust. Otherwise, customers may be reluctant to answer or assume you only care about making a sale, rather than helping them solve a problem.
Qualifying questions about a customer's ability to buy can be asked during a second call, during a sales presentation, or once the customer has expressed a firm interest in making a purchase.
Qualifying Questions in Sales
No matter what point in the sales process you choose to learn more about your customers, successfully identifying non-prospects early in the sales process depends on asking the right qualifying questions.
Start by determining customers' needs with questions such as:
- What problem are you struggling with right now?
- How is this impacting your work/business/everyday life?
- What will you gain from solving this issue?
- How long has this issue been around? What has held you back from fixing it so far?
- Have you made a purchase to try to solve this problem before? How did it work out for you?
- Have you considered buying [your product]? Why or why not?
- How do you see yourself using this product? How could it help you?
- What are the risks involved in fixing this issue? What are the risks of not fixing it?
- How would your life/work/business be different if this problem were solved?
Once you know that your prospect has both need for and interest in what you're selling, you need to determine whether or not they have the ability to buy it. An inability to buy might be related to a lack of money or might occur because the person you're speaking with isn't the final decision-maker.
Discussing finances or power structures can be a sensitive topic. These qualifying questions, which should always be asked with caution and respect, can include:
- Who needs to approve purchases like this?
- Who will be involved in reviewing our proposal?
- How long will it take to get final approval?
- Is a purchase like this something your budget can cover?
- Would you like to talk about a payment plan?
- Do you need to contact a lender?
The Additional Value of Qualifying Questions
Qualifying questions don't just help you identify good leads. They can also be a powerful tool in the sales process.
A prospect who has a need for what you're selling won't necessarily know it when you first reach out. The right qualifying questions will not only help you determine whether customers are a good fit for what you're selling, but they can also help customers realize what they need and how you can help.
If one of these questions triggers a strong response in your prospect, encourage the customer to talk and share more instead of jumping to the next question. A long answer to a short question indicates it's an important issue for the customer. But don't push if customers hesitate to answer a question. If you feel confident that a customer is a strong lead, you can always return to qualifying questions once the two of you have built more trust.