When coaching your salespeople through the sales process, there are certain questions that you need to consistently ask them. They really need to have a guideline for their qualifying process. Reinforcing the importance of qualifying the buyer and how to do it over time will help them to ask better questions at the front end of the sales process and qualify more effectively.

I’ve listed five questions that you should ask your salespeople about each new opportunity. The more you do this, the more they’ll know that they need to be prepared – because they know you’re going to ask.

1. WHO is buying?
This qualifying question obviously refers to the Decision Makers and the Influencers. What are their names, titles and roles in the purchase decision? How do they know these people are the decision makers? Who else is involved with them in making the decision? Flush this out so your reps won’t assume the decision maker and then get blind-sided by a phantom buyer or a late-to-the-table participant.

2. WHAT are they buying?
This qualifying question is all about the potential solutions, your products and services that your salesperson will eventually recommend. You certainly can’t always expect a formal quote, but your salespeople need to know what the primary solutions you provide and the basic issues that the buyer wants to address. This leads us to the third question…

3. WHY are they buying?
Why someone buys refers to the dominate buying motives. Ask questions like: What issues or events are driving their decision? Is it a desire for more market share? Are they on the offense against new competition? Learning their reasons for buying enables your salesperson to understand the emotion behind the decision. This prevents them from being a product-focused only salesperson.

4. WHEN are they buying?
I can’t tell you the number of times a salesperson failed to ask the all too important “when” question. Not to mention, their sales manager failed to ask them the same thing. In other words, they both felt that they had a strong opportunity, but no one asked the prospect when they were going to make the decision. Too often, it’s much later than either the salesperson or the sales manager expected. Be sure to ask your salespeople what the prospects time frame, date, or sense of urgency is about their decision. That way, no one gets surprised and you can accurately forecast the sale.

5. HOW are they buying?
This qualifying question refers to how a prospect buys, such as terms and conditions. Do they need a trial first? What are the terms of the trial? Are they going to need special financing? What is their cash position? Are they a start-up or a mature company? Do they have a budget for this or will they have to pull from other budgets or departments? Learning as much about the “how” of buying will help your salespeople discover if this is a good opportunity or not – long before they enter into an extended sales process that leads nowhere.

As a sales manager, consistently coach your salespeople using these critical qualifying questions. You don’t want them wasting time with a pipeline full of unqualified buyers. By asking your salespeople these questions each week for each sales opportunity, they will come to understand the importance of qualifying and how that will make their life (and yours) much better… and more profitable.

 

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