When Should You Qualify Prospect of your own?

I had an email recently asking me when a salesperson should go through their qualifying questions with a prospect. And, since I haven’t tackled that subject from that standpoint here before, I thought I would share it with all of you.

For starters, I dislike the thought of “going through qualifying questions”, whether the writer meant it that way or not, it seemed like the poor prospect was being put through the bright light, grill session. Hopefully, that’s not what was intended, but if it was—don’t. Don’t just have a laundry list of questions you roll out in front of your prospect like you’re taking a survey.

Qualifying questions are those which help you determine your prospects needs and ability to purchase, correct? Therefore, in my school of thought they aren’t a stand-alone part of the sales process or cycle. In fact, I believe they are a part of several steps to the sale from the initial prospecting through building rapport and determining the prospects needs.

During this entire time you should be asking questions that allow you to determine if your prospect has the means with which to fulfill their wants or needs. It’s not do they “want” to buy or “will” they buy, but “can” they buy? And that doesn’t necessarily mean; do they have the money? It also means; do they have the authority?

Therefore, these questions should all be asked and gotten out of the way before one ever gives a presentation. At any point up until then you should be qualifying your prospect.  Now, that does not mean you open your first line of questioning with, “Can you afford this and how will you pay for it?”

It means you structure good open-ended questions to determine if the prospect is the person to make the decision and if they have the means to purchase your product or service. It is perfectly acceptable and encouraged to ask questions like, “Who all will be involved in making the purchasing decision?” NOTE: Don’t ask: “Will you be making the decision?” That’s closed-ended. Ask a question to get them started talking and open up.

But, back to the original email: when? Again, any time before you make your presentation. In other words, you should never make a presentation only to find out your prospect either can’t afford your product or you’ve been talking to someone who can’t make the ultimate decision.

You can save yourself a lot of time and heartburn with good, qualifying questions.

I’d love to hear some you use.