A clear and defined sales process not only improves the efficiency and organization of the sales team but also effectively guides the conversion of prospects to leads first and then to customers eventually. A study by Harvard Business Review revealed that companies with a proper sales process generate up to 28% more revenue compared to companies without one. The Dealmaker Index Study by TAS Group has also conceded that 70% of high-performing companies follow a systematic sales process.
Yet, a sales process is as efficient as its questions. Asking the correct set of sales questions through each stage gives sales executives the required insight to qualify the prospects/leads for the next step. Asking the most appropriate questions not only helps in identifying the most suitable customers for a company’s product/service but also in eliminating those who are not the perfect match.
Different customers might have different needs. Before moving forward with the prospect, sales representatives must know where the customer stands in terms of requirements, financial plans, allocation of resources, recognition of the problem, and decision-making ability. The sales representatives should then provide solutions that cater to the customer’s problems.
It is through appropriate questioning that sales executives discern all the relevant information without being interrogative. We have compiled a set of open-ended questions that sales executives can use throughout the sales process. Take note of the set of questions mentioned in this article and qualify leads more efficiently.
57 Essential Sales Questions for 5-step Sales Process
Each sales process includes 5-7 stages to convert potential customers into customers progressively. The number of steps involved varies and depends on the requirements of the company. In this article, we would like to discuss a set of questions that sales representatives can use in their 5-step sales process to convert a potential customer to a customer.
The following five steps sales process helps sales executives find potential customers, sort ideal leads, close the deal, and retain customers for referrals and repeat business.
- Presenting a Solution
- Handling Objections
- Closing and Follow-up
This is the first step towards finding potential customers. Sales representatives find potential customers through the process of lead generation. Each company follows its methods for lead generation. The methods may include social media engagements, cold calls, networking, referrals, and other techniques. It is at the prospecting stage where the sales representatives make their first contact with the prospects/leads.
The objective of this process is to identify prospects who are interested in the company’s products/services. Along with interested prospects, this process is also useful in finding leads that might be relevant to the company’s products/services based on their interests, location, age, industry, and other demographics.
- Could you describe your company/business?
A description of the company/business will give sales executives a general idea about the company. This question also helps them build rapport with the prospect and proceed with ease.
- How did you hear about us?
Knowing the traffic source of the prospect helps sales executives measure the success rate of different lead generation techniques. It also helps them in deciding the relevant approach with the prospect. A lead from referral generally has more trust than a lead from other traffic sources. In such a case, the sales executives will have to go the extra mile to build trust.
- What is the problem you are trying to solve?
This question gives the sales executives an idea about the problem and whether or not the product/service would solve it. If the problem is quite far-fetched, then the sales executives may stop pursuing the prospect.
- Could you be more specific about the problem you’re trying to solve, please?
This question lets the prospect describe the problem in detail, giving the sales executives more insight into the issue.
- What is the preferred mode of communication with you?
It is not wise to assume that everyone prefers the same method of communication. It is essential to know a prospect’s preferred method of communication to simplify the process.
- What is the size of your company?
The needs of a small company will be different from that of a larger company. Similarly, start-ups will have different requirements than an established company. It is necessary to know the size and stage of the company to comprehend the problem thoroughly.
- When can we schedule our meeting for the qualification stage?
It is always a valuable step to end a conversation with an action point. Scheduling the meeting helps in guiding the prospect to the next stage effortlessly.
The main goal of this stage is to contact the leads and ask them questions that determine whether or not they are a good match for the product/service. This stage is critical in distinguishing between good and bad leads. And the best way to segregate the leads is by asking essential qualifying questions that reveal vital information about the budget, decision-makers, stakeholders, urgency, and time frame to solve the problem. Sales executives can either meet in person, call or send an email as the primary mode of communication.
- What is the problem that you are trying to solve for your business?
If this question was not asked in the prospecting stage, Knowing about the prospect’s problem early on helps the sales executives establish whether or not their solution is an ideal one for the prospect. If the product/service is an ideal solution, the sales executives can take the process forward towards solving their problem.
- How is it hindering your business’s progress?
This question will help the sales executives determine the cost of the problem to the business. The solution should be able to outset this cost and provide additional value.
- Why are you solving the problem now?
Significant changes in the company, change of vendors, recent diagnosis of the problem, or anything else could have prompted the prospect to look for the solution to their problem now. The answer to this question will help the sales executives determine what precisely is compelling them to act now.
- Have you tried solving the problem before? If not, why? If yes, what solutions did you try? And why did the solution not work?
Through these questions, the sales executives will uncover the challenges in solving the problem. They will recognize the areas where they need to proceed with care.
If the prospect had tried solving the problem and failed, the sales executives would gain valuable insights into what works for the problem and what doesn’t.
- Have you looked for any alternative solutions to this problem? In what areas do they fall short?
Discovering the areas where the alternative solutions fall short will help the sales executives advertise the product’s strong points and present it as an improved solution. It will also help the sales executives understand where the product stands.
- Have you set up a budget for solving this problem?
Knowing about the budget is an essential qualifying factor of a prospect. If the prospect has set up a budget in place, the sales executives can proceed to enquire about their budget. If they haven’t, then the next step should be to know how soon the budget can be allocated for the problem.
- What is the budget you have set up for this problem?
The budget doesn’t have to be an exact match to your price, but it shouldn’t be too far off either. Knowing about their estimated budget will help the sales executives determine whether or not a prospect is suitable for the product/service.
- What is the budget that you have already spent to solve this problem?
Knowing how much the prospect has already spent while trying to solve the problem will help the sales executives get more information regarding the resources that the company is willing to spend.
- What impact would your business face if this problem isn’t solved? How will it impact your business’s goals?
This question lets sales executives understand the overall impact of the problem and its solution to the company. They will also identify how the solution impacts the business’s goals. The answer to this question is vital to understand the value of the product/service to the prospect. If there isn’t a significant impact, then the problem may not hold much weight in the company.
- What is your expected ROI from the solution?
Getting an estimated figure by the prospect will help the sales executives pitch the value of their product/service in terms of ROI and show it as a profitable solution.
- What is your purchasing process?
Each company/business has a decision process. In some companies, the decision process is prompt and efficient. While in others, the decision process is a lengthy one. Knowing about the purchasing process will help the sales executives understand the required elements of the process and aid in qualifying the prospect.
- Who all are involved in the decision-making process for this kind of product/service?
Unless the sales executives know who the main stakeholders in the decision-making process are, they won’t be able to close the deal sooner. Many times, sales executives lose the deal by not contacting the decision-makers sooner.
- How long does it take to make your purchasing decision?
Along with the key stakeholders involved in the purchasing decision, sales executives must know the duration of the decision-making process. Each company has its own decision-making process and timeline. Sales executives should ensure that they are engaged with the prospect throughout the decision-making process, and conversations are flowing smoothly.
- How soon do you need the problem solved?
Knowing the timeline that the prospect has set for solving the problem will help the sales executives present a solution that can be implemented by the required schedule.
- What are your most essential buying requirements?
The essential buying requirement of a prospect is a non-negotiable criterion. The answer to this will aid the sales executives to analyze the prospect’s needs with the features of the product/service and qualify the prospect accordingly.
- What is your expectation from the solution to the problem?
As with the buying requirements, the prospect’s desired outcome should comply with the solution that the product/service offers. If it doesn’t, then the sales executives may have to disqualify the prospect.
- What are the essential features you need in the product/service? And why?
Knowing about the desired features early on will give the sales executives enough time to check for those features in their product/service. They can analyze if the product meets the prospect’s requirements. Sometimes, the product may have additional features than they require, which serves an advantage. But sometimes, the features of the product/service may not meet the prospect’s requirements. In that case, sales executives can either look for other ways in which the product/service solves the problem, or stop moving ahead.
Remember, the goal is to solve the prospect’s problem. If the product does that, then always advocate it. If it doesn’t, then don’t push too hard.
- Have you used a product like ours before? If so, how was the experience?
If the prospect has used a product like the company’s before, then it will be easy for the sales executives to precisely understand what they need. Knowing what went right and what went wrong in the previous product will help them gauge where their product stands.
- What are the challenges that might occur while pursuing to solve this problem?
The prospect may be a fit for the product/service depending on the budget, needs, expectations, and time frame. Nonetheless, it is necessary to know about the challenges that may arise while implementing the solution. Sales executives can formulate plans to overcome those challenges and present a perfect solution to the prospect. If otherwise, the challenges have many uncertainties, the sales executives may have to reconsider the prospect.
- What is your highest preference for the solution- price, quality, productivity, or need?
Knowing about the prospect’s preferences will help the sales executives pitch their product based on the choice of the prospect.
Presenting the Solution/Product
Once the sales executives have successfully analyzed the needs and challenges of the prospect, they should research the prospect’s company, industry, and other relevant information. After gathering all relevant information, they will demonstrate how the products or services will solve the challenges and meet the needs of the prospect. They must also highlight additional benefits that the product/service will deliver to the prospect.
- How does the product/service sound to you?
This question helps the sales executives understand how the prospect perceives the product/service. The sales executives can identify areas that need more explaining and explain them to the prospect.
- Have we covered all of your expectations?
Along with ensuring that the prospect understands the product/service, it is also essential to make sure that the sales executives have covered all the requirements of the prospect. If something has been let out, this question will help them note it.
- Are there any changes that you would like to see in our product/solution?
Knowing about the changes that the prospect would like to see in the product/service will let sales executives recognize the areas of concern. Decide whether or not the changes can be implemented in the product, and plan accordingly.
- Are there any concerns that you have in implementing this product/service?
The concerns in implementing the solution could be regarding the decision-makers, influencers, allocated resources, allocated budget and time, purchasing process, or anything that could delay the implementation. Hence, it is imperative to know about the concerns early on so that the sales executives can devise measures to counter them.
- Do you have any questions or suggestions about the product/service?
This question gives the sales executives a chance to demonstrate the areas of the product/service, which could have led to confusion and doubts later on.
- Would you like to set a strategy call for explaining the implementation and demonstration of our product/service?
Despite a good sell, if the product is not implemented correctly, it will leave a negative impact on the company. So, sales executives must explain the implementation and demonstration of the product so that it is implemented well. They should try to communicate with the person implementing or overseeing the product/service.
- Based on what we have discussed so far, do you think our product/service solves your problem?
If the prospect responds positively, then they are ready for the next stage. Else, if the prospect responds negatively or is unsure, then the sales executives will have more digging to do.
- Did you get a chance to discuss the product/service with the “Decision-maker” or “Influencer”? Do they have any questions or concerns?
Even after sales executives have resolved all concerns of the prospect, there may still be obstacles in closing the deal if the decision-makers aren’t satisfied with the product/service. Hence, it is imperative to look into the problems that the key stakeholders may have with the product/service and tackle them promptly. The sooner the decision-makers are brought into the picture, the better. Sales executives should ensure that the prospect is communicating about the solution to the decision-makers. The prospect should be conveying any questions or concerns that stakeholders have.
- Are there any concerns from other stakeholders that we should be aware of?
Most of the time, the person that the sales executives are communicating with aren’t the sole decision-makers. So, it is crucial to inquire about the concerns that other stakeholders may have so that they can address it sooner.
- Do the “Decision-maker/Influencer” like this solution/product?
Unless the decision-makers and influencers like the solution, the deal cannot go forward. So, sales executives have to make sure that the decision-makers are on their side before moving forward with the deal.
- Would it be possible to bring the “Decision-maker/Influencer” in this conversation?
The best way to remove any doubt regarding the understanding that the decision-makers have about the product/service is to communicate with them directly. The answer to this may not always be positive, but if it is, then sales executives should be able to address all the questions and concerns of the decision-makers.
Objection handling is one of the most testing stages of the sales process. Despite proper preparation and presentation, objections are inevitable. Objections come in the form of a prospect’s concerns regarding trust, cost, budget, relevance, value, or in other ways. For a successful sales process, sales executives should be able to handle objections and address the concerns of their prospects.
It is imperative to anticipate the common questions beforehand and gently guide the prospect towards the value of the product/service, to successfully handle objections. Never ignore an objection and aim to solve it as soon as possible.
Also, it is best to cover the most common objections regarding budget, authority, need, and timeline in the earlier stages. The qualifying stage should include the questions which could act as objections later on.
Handling Objections Questions
- If we could deal with (prospect’s objection), would you be comfortable moving forward to the next step?
Some objections can be dealt with a proper strategy, while some cannot. If the objections can be dealt with, then let the prospect know and aim towards advancing the deal.
- What are your views on the solution I’ve shared with you?
Through this question, the sales executives will come across any issue and concerns that the prospect may have with the product or solution. This is a good opportunity to address potential objections tactfully.
- Do you have any questions that I haven’t answered yet?
This question gives the sales executives a chance to answer any questions that the prospect may have. This is also a good way to clear doubts about the solution and explain areas that may have been left out.
- How can I help you with the approval of this purchase?
Many challenges could stall the deal. When sales executives offer to help with the approval of the purchase, they present themselves as a reliable source, and this helps in building trust. If the prospect is willing to share the areas where sales executives could help, then it puts them in a position of control, wherein they can influence the approval rate.
- Are there any other factors that I should be aware of during the implementation process?
This question lets sales executives identify other factors that they may have missed during the conversation.
- (Timeline based) If we could schedule this deal for a later time, would you be able to commit to implementing our solution?
Sometimes, a prospect may have other priorities at the moment and may not be able to continue with the implementation. Sales executives should always discern these types of challenges during the qualifying stage itself. But, if it does come up later in the process, sales executives should be able to handle it without losing the prospect. If the prospect agrees to implement the solution at a later time frame, then sales executives should ensure that they are consistently following up with the prospect.
- (Pricing based) We can offer a discount for you if you are ready to move forward with the deal. Can we start the implementation?
Budget questions should always be asked in the qualifying stage itself. Sales executives should advance only after knowing about the estimated budget and the purchasing process of the prospect. Yet, if objections regarding budget arise later, then sales executives should either counter their objection by showing the value that their solution provides. Or, they could use the objection as an opportunity to let the prospect act sooner by providing a limited time discount.
- What would you like to happen next?
If the prospect sets out clearly defined actions, then the deal is likely moving smoothly. If, however, the actions are vague, then the sales executives may have more work to do.
Closing & Follow-Up
The closing stage is the decision stage of the sales process. The prospect will either commit to using your product/service or, they will stop the process altogether.
If the prospect has committed to using your product/service, then pricing, terms, objections, issues, and other details have to be thoroughly discussed by this time.
There are many closing techniques sales executives can use. The main element is to keep it cordial and respectful.
- Based on our discussion, our product/service is an ideal solution for your problem. Let’s finalize the deal, shall we?
Sometimes a prospect takes too long to move forward. Hence, sales executives should take a focused approach when closing, so that the deal doesn’t linger indefinitely.
- If all your requirements are met, would you like to move forward with the implementation?
This question will help uncover any additional steps that need to be fulfilled before moving towards the implementation. If all the requirements have been met, then this question acts as a gentle reminder to move forward. If the prospect is hesitant, even then, then there might be some challenges that haven’t been resolved yet.
- When can we begin the implementation?
This question gives the required push for the prospect to think about the solution and its implementation. If the prospect is stalling the decision, then this question will help set a definite time.
- When would be a good time to send you the paperwork?
Just like the previous question, this question too sets up momentum for the prospect to take action. The sales executives may not have closed the deal yet, but the question assumes otherwise. This is a confident gesture and helps the sales executives to close the deal faster.
- When will you be able to sign the contract?
Clear and concise, this question guides the prospect towards the most crucial action, i.e., to sign the contract. Without a specified date, the decision may hold on for too long. Prompting a timeline to sign the contract navigates the prospect to act sooner.
- How soon would you like to move forward with this solution?
The sooner, the better. Sales executives should keep the communication open with the prospects until the implementation is done.
Sales executives may have successfully converted the lead to a customer. But, follow-up is an essential element that shouldn’t be ignored. Following up after a successful deal not just helps in retaining the customers but also in gaining referrals. If the company’s relationship with its customers is good, then they will keep using its products and services. Further, they will refer their friends and families to do the same.
Retaining a customer is beneficial and time-efficient than acquiring a new one. So, ensure that you are following up effectively.
Common follow-up methods include newsletters, new offers, feedback, etc.
- Did our product/service meet your expectations?
This question is an excellent way to know whether or not the product/service is solving the prospect’s problem. If the product/service didn’t meet their expectations, the company would identify the areas where they can improve on.
- How was your experience with our product/service?
This question lets the company know if the product/service is easy to implement and use. They will also know its impact on the prospect’s problem and overall performance.
- What are the features that you love about our product/service?
The features that the prospect loves can be used to understand what people like about the product. These features can be used as the top-selling points.
- What are the changes that you would like in our product/service?
The changes highlighted by the prospect will help one identify the areas that need more improvements.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our product/service to friends and families?
Higher the scale, the higher the chances of new prospects and leads.
While the ultimate goal of any sales process is to convert leads into customers, following a structured approach ensures that the sales executives stay on the desired track throughout the process. A sales process guides the prospects at different stages of their familiarity with a company’s products or services towards becoming a qualified customer. And the correct set of questions throughout each stage ensures the qualification of the best prospects with higher close rates, thereby saving everyone’s time and energy. The questions mentioned above will help sales executives understand the pain points, challenges, and concerns of the prospect better. Understanding those areas are essential for sales executives to present their product/service as the perfect solution.
Use these questions and devise a robust sales process to close more deals persuasively.