The most important rule in sales isn’t always be closing (ABC), it’s always be helping (ABH). And in order to help prospective clients, you need to ask a variety of questions. Without asking questions, it can be impossible to know how best to help a prospect, or if you are even the right vendor to help them at all. During your first call with a prospect, it’s vital to understand their business drivers. Only then can you identify how or if you can help. In order to have a successful first call, it’s first important to understand if you’re talking to the right person. As an example, if you’re selling marketing software you might think that a CMO is the right person to be talking to, only to discover that, at that particular company, the CIO needs to sign off on all new possible tech solutions before marketing can even get involved.
After establishing that a prospect has the authority to make (or influence) a decision, it’s important to ascertain, as quickly as possible, if that prospect potentially has budget. Now as a caveat, I think that, no matter how successful a company is, they may not think that there is budget until they truly understand the value of your solution. So the onus rests on your sales team to convey the value of the solution. That being said, if you’re selling up-market (or even mid-market) there are going to be some companies that cannot afford to take the risk of investing in your product, no matter how much they wish they could.
To help you get started, here are seven of the most essential B2B sales qualification questions that can help you establish a potential customer’s authority and budget.
How does your company evaluate new solutions?
Simply asking how their company evaluates new solutions can actually provide you with a wealth of data. Your prospect may volunteer exactly which stakeholders are involved in evaluating new purchases. They likewise might freely volunteer who has the authority to make decisions.
As an example, suppose you’re selling marketing automation technology and you’re speaking to a marketing manager. That marketing manager might volunteer that they are doing reconnoissance on various marketing automation solutions and then they’ll report back to the CMO. You’d then know that, while the CMO will have final authority on the buying decision, you will need to effectively win over the marketing manager as an advocate for your solution.
In addition to yourself, who else at your company is facing these problems?
This question offers another angle for defining stakeholders. In B2B Sales there may be five or even 10 decision makers involved in any given deal. It’s important to quickly ascertain who all the key stakeholders are. Try to figure out, if possible, who the primary decision maker is and who are the influencers. Every corporate structure is different, so remember that sometimes the decision maker with the most pull might not be who you think it is initially. For example, in some cases a well-respected developer might have as much or more influence as an executive.
Are there any issues that [other stakeholders] might be concerned with?
Imagine you’re selling to a Chief Marketing Officer. She seems absolutely sold on your company’s value proposition. However, she mentioned that the CIO and CFO are also stakeholders in the deal. These other decision makers are bound to have some different concerns than the CMO. Asking what issues might concern other decision makers can help you better prepare a presentation that captivates those other stakeholders.
What’s your purchasing process?
When selling to companies, it’s of particular strategic importance to be aware of a prospective company’s buying process. Does a CEO need to sign off on deals? Does their company prefer to start small with pilot programs? Would setting up a group meeting with all the key stakeholders be beneficial? Rather than asking all of these questions individually, simply ask your prospect their process for reaching a purchasing decision. They’ll likely talk you through their entire process and give you valuable information that can help you facilitate the deal.
Are you responsible for establishing budget?
This question is a great segue that enables you to move from talking about authority to discussing budget. Ultimately, it pays to know who has the power of purse. If you end up meeting a pricing objection, you’ll know exactly who you need to talk to about getting additional budget. Remember that budgets are decided by different stakeholders at different companies. If you’re selling marketing automation software, at one company you may need to have a budgetary discussion with a VP of marketing, whereas at another company you may need to talk to a CFO.
Do you already have a budget allocated?
Often, a company will have a specific budget set aside for purchasing solutions. That knowledge enables you to be strategic about potential up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. Also, even if prospects don’t reveal what their budget is, knowing that they have a budget in place should help you understand how sales-ready they are.
What are you ideally looking to invest?
Instead of asking prospects what they’d like to “spend,” help them to see purchasing your solution as an “investment.” You can often simultaneously ascertain their budget and launch into a conversation about what the returns on their investment can be. This is powerful because it can often help you bust pricing objections before they even arise. It also puts the onus on you to discuss ROI for that investment, so be prepared.
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