Prospect: Seven Vital Questions To Ask

Skip Miller The goal of qualifying is to give you a better than 50 percent chance of closing the sales. My qualification process focuses on getting the qualification information from the prospect. To get information, you have to ask questions. Good qualification questions are centered on three probing areas, which I refer to as the three Ms: Money, Method and Motivation. Qualification of a deal is a skill, and if mastered, it will affect a salesperson’s success more than anything else. MMM has seven questions. These questions will give you the ammunition you need to ask great qualification questions, starting with the first M, Money.

Question1: Money – What, Not Who
Money is the first question to be answered. If the prospect does not have a way to pay for what you are offering, why would you be working on a specific deal? A prospect without money may have you occupied for months and prevent you from working on sales opportunities with real potential.

As a ProActive salesperson, you need to be asking what. The two what questions you need to ask under Money are: What is the process for obtaining a budget for a decision like this? And What is the process for making a decision?

Method, the second M, focuses its questions on the buyer’s specific process. Three questions that need to be answered in Method are:

    1. What is the implementation date?

    2. What are the steps in the buy/sell process?

    3. What are the decision criteria?

Question 2: Implementation Date – The Maybe Killer
Nothing kills a sale like a maybe. The implementation date or I-Date is when prospects want their order on their desk or when they are going to start using your product or service. The date the contract is signed is secondary compared with the date they have what you sold them.

Prospects place importance on I-Dates more than any other date in the buy/sell process for reasons including:

  • It is when they promised their boss something would change.
  • There is a customer timeline involved.
  • A schedule must be met.
  • There is political pressure on something your good or service is a part of.
  • All qualified deals will have an I-Date. Salespeople usually know the I-Date in less than 50 percent of their current prospecting forecast. There are three reasons for this:

      1. Salespeople are focused on the selling process and do not know about a buy/sell process.

      2. They don’t think like a buyer, and therefore focus on selling.

      3. They don’t ask for an I-Date, assuming that it is just ASAP.

    Question 3: Buy/Sell Steps – Buyers Buy Backwards
    What I-Date does not do is tell you how the prospect is going to buy. It does not give you the steps in the buy/sell process the buyer is going to through, or in what direction the buyer is going to buy in. The second question under Method is: What are the steps in the buy/sell process?

    Salespeople sell forward, buy buyers buy backward. They are trained to think of a next step, then the one after that, and so on, all the way until a close. This is good thinking. However, next-step selling must be based on the prospect’s buy cycle, not on the seller’s cycle.

    Think about it. When was the last time you purchased anything of some importance? You bought is backwards. For example: Last car. The lease on my car is running out on this date, so I need to do something about that soon. Last vacation: We have to go on vacation the week of July 10 since that is the only week all the kids are free.

    Question 4: The Decision Criteria
    What are the reasons buyers buy? A prospect’s buying decision comes down to five criteria. A decision to buy a good or service ends up focusing on:

      1. Product or service features and benefits

      2. Product quality

      3. Professional support or ease of use

      4. Investment

      5. Image

    In sales presentations, demonstrate features/benefits and the value they provide. Stress the benefits, not just list hundreds of features and hope the prostpect can sort them out and pick a few good ones.

    The prospect’s interest in quality breaks down into five areas:

      1. Good Enough Quality: quality adequate to meet the need.

      2. The Best Quality: Quality is high on the list of reasons to buy.

      3. Comparative Quality: Quality has not entered the decision process as an important factor.

      4. Time Quality: Play the short-term vs. long-term debate to the maximum.

      5. Yesterday Quality: Assume quality based on history, image and reputation.

    Professional support implies the service you will be getting from the selling organization. Buyers want to feel they will be taken care of and can maximize their value.

    Your product or service must address the investment issue, and must do so in a quantifiable way for it to be of any value to the prospect. Answer these questions for every sale: What extremes is the prospect trying to solve: By how much?

    Image or brand is very important. You must be the one to help prospects with their image.

    Question 5: The Need
    Is there a real need for your product or service? What has the prospect said her need is? A real need must address these issues:

    What is the reason for this need? How much attention is this getting? What is the final outcome? What is going to change once a solution is put into place? How much is this worth? What is the financial or emotional gain?

    When these are answered, you have a legitimate need.

    Question 6: Can You Really Meet the Need? ,br>Can you meet this need? You must have the knowledge of how, when, why, and what.

    How can you meet the need and does the prospect agree? When does the prospect say he will implement a solution, and does this agree with the implementation date? Why would the prospect implement a solution? What is the overriding business case? What increases or decreases, and by how much?

    Question 7: Top Two Client-Spoken Benefits
    The final qualification question is: What are the top two benefits the prospect has said he or she will receive by implementing your solution?

    There is a real reason why people make a decision, why you choose certain things. Rapport answers are typically what salespeople get when they ask questions in a sales environment. Good salespeople get down to the second level of why. ProActive salespeople get the third level of why.

    Three Levels of Why is a tool to be used when you are asking prospects questions about why they are making a decision. Ask them what are the top two reasons they would make a decision in your favor, and then go to the Three Levels of Why.

    How do you know when you are at the third level of why? You just do. The nonverbal signs, the passion, the voice inflection. How do you get there? You ask:

      Why – Why would you do that?

      What – What would that mean to you?

      Flip – So I think I hear you say this, is that correct?

      A ProActive salesperson gets to the real reason – the emotional reasons of why a prospect would make a decision.

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