Qualifying fact finding questions are directly connected to your industry, your products, your services and most importantly your customers. In consultative selling, I find that asking these 10 insightful qualifying questions early in the selling phase of the sales process saves me time.
First, before you can ask these 10 questions, you need find the right people be them the decision makers, the project managers or even a centers of influence (sponsors). Invest some time building the relationships because relationship selling begins here with mutual trust and respect.
During the fact finding meeting, here are 10 qualifying questions that I ask:
Question # 1: Where do they see their business or department going in the next 6 months to 3 years? Here you must engage in active listening to have a clear picture of what is really happening. One good follow-up question is to use a balance score card where you focus on general areas such as customers to financials to leadership.
Question # 2: Why is moving in this direction important to them? The importance will vary depending upon the individual's role and function within the organization. By asking this question you are becoming aware of the emotional drivers directing the goal.
Question # 3: What is driving this goal forward? This question is important to listen as to who truly owns the goal, are there any additional emotional drivers and helps to determine if you have all the decision makers at the table.
Question # 4: What forces are keeping this goal from being successful? The response to this question can become quite detailed from global marketplace to individual behaviors or even the overall culture of the organization. A follow-up question may need to focus on priority, as this is a force that derails many potential sales. Sales Coaching Tip: Do not confuse priority with urgency.
Question # 5: If this goal is not achieved, what does this mean for you as well as the organization? Again returning to the emotions, this question is very important. Sales Coaching Tip: Since you have an established relationship, you can ask this very personal question.
Question # 6: How have other significant goals been supported specific to the resources of time, allocated budget, people and overall commitment? By not directly asking about money and expanding this to resources provides you more information that many sales professionals generally do not receive. You may also learn that the goal is not as significant as originally suggested.
Question # 7: What expectations do you have with your existing vendor relationships? When asking this question, your goal is to learn of any unknown established relationships and the sales prospects' relationship preferences. A follow-up question may center on the current goal and if there will be additional expectations. Depending upon the situation, I may ask a very direct follow-up question specific to the satisfaction the potential customer has with its current vendor.
Question # 8: As you move forward in your decision making process, what do I need to do to help you? Instead of asking what is your decision making process the question asked by many salespersons, you have asked what I call a back door question that places you in what I have termed a position of pull instead of a position of push. By answering the question, the sales prospect is figuratively pulling you to her or him instead of you pushing him or her. Sales Coaching Tip: Pulling is much better than pushing.
Question # 9: Do you expect a formal RFP or RFI or RFQ to be issued? If so, will you or someone else be the author of this request? This question may not be necessary for all organizations and truly depends your early fact finding information as well as the type of organization. Many not-for-profits issue these documents as standard practice even for small consultative selling engagements.
Question # 10: Where do we go from here? Sometimes, this question can earn you the contract right on the stop. Other times, you will receive additional information or request such as a statement of work (proposal) to scheduling another meeting.
As selling is truly both generic and specific, these are not the only qualifying fact finding questions. However, I have found them to helpful as I have grown my consultative selling practice. Additionally, one of the benefits is by asking these questions early within the sales process, you will truly learn if this goal is really important or if you have a tire ticker engaged in planning a budget for two years down the road.