There are many questions you might have to ask in order to properly qualify your prospects. But to dramatically increase your chances of closing a deal during that first call, you’ll want to tap into the power of the past and the future.

Here's how.

The Past

Ask prospects about past experiences buying similar products or services and learn everything you can about their buying and decision making process. This is particularly useful for uncovering organizational biases for or against your type of product.

For example, if you're selling a Software as a Service product, it’s good to know if they bought another SaaS system three months ago and are pleased with it. Your chances of getting a deal done will be significantly higher in this case than if you're the first SaaS vendor they've ever talked to or if the last SaaS purchase was a disaster.

Here are some questions to ask to dig into the prospect’s past for helpful tidbits:

  • When was the last time you bought something similar to our solution?
  • What was that experience like?
  • How long did the buying process take?
  • How many people did it involve?
  • Was the project ultimately a success? 
  • If so, why? If not, why not?

Not only do these questions reveal decision makers and the prospect’s buying process, they also give you a head’s up on sticking points and potholes to steer clear of.

The Future

Once you've learned from the past, you’ll want to focus on the future.

Ask "What would it take for you to become a customer of ours?" and then shut up and listen. This is what I call the virtual close.

After you ask this question, the prospect will provide you with a list of requirements. Follow up on each answer and dig deeper until you arrive at a hypothetical agreement: "So if we did X and Y and Z, you would instantly buy, right?" This process will show you if there is real buying intent, and alert you to any red flags you should be aware of before you start the sales process.

Here are some questions to probe into the future from Steli Efti, CEO of

  • What will it take for you to become a customer?
  • Once we've done XYZ, what happens next?
  • Are we already in business or is there anything else that needs to happen?

Call Scripting

I’m a big fan of creating scripts for calls, but I will also allow reps to freely go off script when needed.

Scripts make it easy to train new hires, which gives you a faster route to positive ROI on new business development reps, but that’s not the only reason I like them. Scripts are something sales leaders can track, optimize, and measure. The variables are the people on both sides of the phone.

Previously, you could only really track whether a script was good or bad. The rep was either good or bad as well. With the new technology era in sales, you can now track the entire script, as well as where people tend to fall off.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from the new book Hacking Sales: The Playbook for Building a High Velocity Sales Machine. It is published here with permission.

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Originally published May 18, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated October 30 2019


Sales Qualification