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What's the Best Lead Qualification Question?

SCENARIO: You've got a long list of leads and you need to winnow out the ones that aren't likely to buy. You need to fill the pipeline fast, so you don't have time to beat around the bush. You've already confirmed that a "prospect" has a problem that your offering will solve. You must now find out if the deal is real...

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The key question here is: How will you solve the problem if you don't buy?
To understand why this is likely to give you the most information, let's look at other two question:
  • Do you have the budget for to buy my offering? Great question, and you should definitely ask it. However, while this is good information to know, but it doesn't tell you whether they're going to actually spend the money, only that they've got a budget.
  • What's the priority for spending in this category? Also a great question, because it lets you know where you stand relative other spending in the budget. However, unless you know all the other priorities, you still don't know whether the customer will actually buy.
Once again, those are great questions... but they don't really tell you what you need to know in order to close the deal.

By contrast, How will you solve this problem if you don't buy? tells you all sorts of interesting information that will be useful in the sales cycle. Here are some of what you might learn:

  • How serious they are about solving the problem.
  • Whether they've got viable alternatives to buying.
  • Whether they see the problem as a spending priority.
  • Whether your competitor is already in the account.
  • Who (what group) might gain power if they don't buy.
  • Who (what group) might lose power if they don't buy.
  • The REAL time-frame for solving the problem.
  • Whether or not they've thought the problem through.
  • Whether or not they've thought the solution through.
  • Whether the deal might be a dead-end with no purchase.
The question also allows you to preemptively position your product against the work-around, so that it doesn't suddenly crop up at the end of the sale cycle and become a viable reason not to buy.

So, by all means, ask the spending and budget questions. But be sure to ask the question that will reveal the real conditions under which your solution might (or might not) be purchased.

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