3 Questions that Help You Qualify Your Customers and Make More Sales
Have you ever spent time with a prospective customer only to find out they weren't interested in you or your product in the first place?
Master salespeople are also masters at qualifying their customers. By learning how to weed out the tire-kickers, you can spend your time with the people who truly want what you have to offer.
And qualifying questions (and how to use them) is what we're going to talk about today.
Want to listen? There's an audio version (with BONUS content!) below
One of the first things you should do in sales is to learn how to ask qualifying questions. You need to know if the person in front of you or on the other end of the phone is interested in you and your product or if they're just killing time.
Applying Good Sales Technique
Back in college, I was part of the recruitment effort for our fraternity. Baylor had just built a new three-winged, multi-floored, completely-enormous science building, and they wanted to show it off.
The plan was to have each fraternity occupy a separate lecture hall. The freshmen who were interested in pledging (i.e. applying to a fraternity and going through the membership process), had to register with the university and pick up their rush cards. On each card, like a Bingo board, was a spot for each fraternity.
Before the freshmen could make their decision about which fraternity they wanted to join, they first had to get their Bingo board stamped by a minimum number of fraternities.
The purpose of the card was to get young men to meet new people and see what other fraternities were out there. Since my fraternity was smaller than the others, it was nice to have the opportunity to get our message in front of people who might not otherwise see it.
The Weed-Out Process
However, the Bingo card also brought about problems. So they could fill up their cards, the freshmen swooped from room to room, had quick conversations, and left once they got their stamp.
Also at this time in my life, I was working for Dell, back when they had a call center in downtown Waco, Texas. Dell had spent weeks training our sales team not only on the company's products and services but also on how to be better salespeople.
And one of the things we'd learned was how to effectively determine if someone was ready to buy or if they were just looking for more information. Dell had taught me how to effectively use qualifying questions.
So when our lecture hall was empty between throngs of freshmen, I pulled our fraternity members aside and taught them how to ask qualifying questions to determine if someone was actually interested in joining us or if they only walked through our door to get a stamp on their Bingo board.
By asking qualifying questions like those listed below, our current members were able to filter out the stamp-getters and free up their time to focus on the freshmen who were truly interested in the fraternity.
3 Qualifying Questions:
- What brings you in today?
- What are you looking for?
- How did you hear about us?
By asking these easy qualifying questions, the guys who were only there for a stamp were politely handled and shown the door, while the young men who were interested in our mission and our message got the time and attention they deserved.
A Good Qualifying Question is:
When you ask qualifying questions to your audience, you can determine how best to help them. If you ask the right questions, prospects will practically tell you what they need and how you can make a sale. Yes, it'll take some practice, but your efforts will pay off.
As a result of a few minutes of training my fellow members, our fraternity was able to have one of the largest pledge classes we'd had in several semesters.
Buying vs. Being Sold
People don't mind buying, but they rarely want to be sold. However, having the option to buy all of the options is often a good thing. But I'll come back to that.
A couple of months ago, we needed to get our SUV serviced. Nothing major, just the routine oil change and tire rotation, etc. So I drove my wife to work, dropped her off, and headed to the closest Nissan dealership.
When I got on-site, I had a hard time finding the service entrance, so I pulled up in front of a group of sales guys who worked for the Chevrolet dealership owned by the same company. I hadn't even gotten out of my car and I was immediately swarmed.
“What can we get you into today?”
“What kind of payments are you looking for?”
“What's your budget?”
“This new Corvette is nice, isn't it?”
They dove on me like flies at a fall barbeque. Yes, the new Z06 was nice, but I wasn't interested.
I asked where the service place was, and they were of no use. Either they were idiots or they had no desire to help me. They couldn't even tell me that the service department I was looking for was less than 100 yards back the way I came.
I'm sure you've had the same experience. Nobody refers to car salesmen as the pinnacle of selling technique.
Are you doing the same thing?
Are you asking people to buy into you, your ideas, or your mission before they even know who you are and what you're about?
I share the story above to show you one end of the sales extreme – the “in your face,” obnoxious example that you've likely experienced and want to avoid in your business.
Successful businesses understand they need to understand their customers. We must get inside the mind of our prospective clients and learn what they need, what they want, and where they're going for information. That's why defining your ideal client avatar is so important and why content marketing is so effective.
I'd made a wrong turn, and before I'd talked about my needs, before I'd shared what I wanted, and before I'd even showed a single buying signal, the idiots at the car dealership made assumptions about who I was and what I wanted.
If the stooges at the car dealership had asked me, “What brings you in today?” they would have known I was not in the market for a new car, and they could have either gotten back to their conversation or moved on to someone else who was looking to make a purchase.
Side note: there was no one else at the dealership, perhaps because the dealership had earned a “car salesmen” reputation in the community that was off-putting.
When to Ask Qualifying Questions
Now that you know three qualifying questions to ask, let's talk about when to use them
In short, there is no bad time to qualify your customers. You can ask qualifying questions at the beginning, at the middle, and even at the end of your conversation as you lead someone through the sales process.
At the Beginning
As I mentioned in the examples of my fraternity and the car dealership, asking qualifying questions when you first engage with someone is very effective.
By asking questions at the beginning, not only do you invite your prospect to tell you what they need, but you can quickly determine if they're the right customer for you.
But beware, qualifying someone as soon as they get out of the car or walk through your door can be off-putting. You should let someone get their bearings and get a feel for where they are before you swoop in. Heck, at the very least, give them an opportunity to stretch their legs or for their eyes to adjust to the lighting in your store.
In the Middle
Once you've determined someone is in the right place and that they'd be a good fit for your products, your job is not done.
By asking qualifying questions throughout your conversation, you can determine if someone would be interested in cross-sells or upsells you have to offer. Additionally, you can learn more about what the customer wants so you can offer the best possible product to them.
PRO TIP: Whenever your prospect mentions a different product or an upgraded feature, ask them qualifying questions about it. Ask, “What about that appeals to you?” or “What interests you about ____?” A good salesperson is always seeking more information.
At the End
After you've determined if the prospect is interested in what you've got to offer, and after you've figured out how to meet their needs in the best way possible, your job is done, right?
Every good salesperson knows that their job is never done. Everybody buys SOMETHING to go along with what they're buying today. A notebook needs a pen. A movie ticket needs popcorn and a coke. A car needs oil changes and a warranty. Even offline, brick and mortar stores need websites.
Asking good qualifying questions at the end of the sale closes the conversation. Like bookends, great questions open and close the relationship and often show your customers that you care about them beyond just the sale of today.
Good questions get the customer talking. The more they're talking, the more they're going to tell you about who they are, what problem they have, and what type of solution they're looking for.
A good bit of sales advice is this: let the customer do most of the talking.