7 Questions to Test How Serious Your Prospect Is About Buying

Michael Pici
Michael Pici



You learn about a valuable treasure, but it’s at the top of a huge mountain. Reaching the peak requires overcoming extreme cold, fatigue, and high altitudes. To make the journey even less appealing, you’re not sure how much the treasure is worth or if you’ll even be able to spend it.

Would you attempt the climb?

Your prospects face this conundrum all the time. Although they’re intrigued by the results you cite, they’re also probably intimidated by the energy, time, and resources required to navigate the buying process -- not to mention, to incorporate your product into their system and processes.

That’s why buyers who lack a strong desire to change ultimately decide not to act. Use these seven questions to identify unmotivated prospects so you can incite the appropriate urgency.

1) “How have you attempted to overcome this challenge in the past?”

Prospects will often try internal or moderate measures before looking externally for help. If the buyer’s problem is relatively serious, she can probably describe at least one strategy she’s used.

Follow up this question with, “What were the results?”

Her answer will tell you how pressing the issue is. If her solution completely flopped or the situation worsened, she likely has a strong desire for change. If the current situation is relatively stable, her appetite for change is likely weaker.

2) “Why is this a priority right now?”

Compelling events and deadlines usually make buyers highly eager for change. Your prospect might be reacting to an industry shift or new company initiative. Maybe she’s responsible for achieving a goal before a specific date. Or perhaps she’s realized the true impact an obstacle is having on her business.

The above reasons -- along with any other timely ones -- suggest the buyer is motivated to act. However, if she responds to this question with an answer like, “It’s our slow season,” or “I had some extra hours, so I figured I’d look into this,” you should be more skeptical of her desire to disrupt the status quo.

3) “Change isn’t easy. How committed are you to revamping your [business area] strategy?”

Use this question with prospects who respond well to a direct, simple conversational style. It will help you differentiate a buyer who’s unsure if she’s ready to take the plunge from a buyer who’s fully bought-in.

Note this question doesn’t mention your product. Your prospect might be sold on the idea of buying a solution, but that doesn’t mean she’s sold on your solution. Once you’ve established her appetite for change, you can demonstrate why your offering is the best for her needs.

4) “Here's what it takes for a customer to be successful with our product. This usually translates to X hours / week (or some other metric that shows the extent of the commitment). Is this something you're ready to commit to?"

For many products, the real work doesn’t begin until after buyers have signed on the dotted line. Some salespeople are loath to share this fact with their prospects, believing it will scare some off -- and rightfully so.

But that’s actually to the rep’s benefit. Prospects who aren’t willing to put in the time and energy necessary to realize a product’s potential aren’t good fits. They’re highly unlikely to end up buying … and if they do, they’re going to be dissatisfied.

Just as you qualify your sales prospects for need, budget, authority, timeline, and so forth, you should also qualify for commitment. This question will eliminate buyers who aren’t truly dedicated to solving their business pain. As an added bonus, it sets appropriate expectations for the buyers who are serious about addressing this issue.

5) “On a scale of one to 10, with one being ‘never going to buy,’ and 10 being ‘ready right now,’ what’s your timeline?”

A deal needs significant momentum to close. The buyer might seem excited about your product and its potential benefits, but if she’s dragging her feet, her appetite for change isn’t great enough. To increase it, help her calculate the costs of inaction. What are the negative consequences of maintaining the status quo?

Ideally, your prospect will give an answer in the seven to nine range. That indicates she’ll be making up her mind fairly soon. Anything lower suggests this deal isn’t one of her top priorities.

6) “What’s your implementation plan?”

If your prospect is in the Decision stage of the buyer’s journey, she’s honed in on a specific solution type. Now she’s comparing individual vendors to see which product best fits her needs.

But making it to this stage doesn’t guarantee a purchase. To see how dedicated the buyer truly is, ask about her plan for implementation. If you’re selling a non-software product, ask, “Where do you see this product fitting into your [process/routine/existing toolkit]?”

Committed prospects will have some idea -- if not a fully fleshed-out strategy -- of how they’re going to introduce a product to their team or integrate it into their workflow.

When your prospect says, “I don’t have an implementation plan,” “I haven’t gotten that far yet,” or a similar answer, don’t automatically write her off. This gives you an excellent opportunity to add value and win authority. Offer to guide her through the implementation process or help her figure out how exactly she’ll use the product.

7) “Who else will be involved in making this decision? Do they know we’re speaking?”

Jeff Hoffman, creator of the YourSalesMBA™ training program, uses this question to determine how serious buyers are.

If your prospect is highly anxious to change, she’ll bring in other decision makers as soon as possible. The earlier they’re involved, the faster the buying process will be.

A prospect who’s less enthusiastic will probably put off this step. It’s a waste of time to involve her peers when she doesn’t know whether she wants to pull the trigger.

If your prospect falls into the second camp, consider politely pushing back. You might say, “We’ve spent some time discussing [X challenge] and [Y objective.] It seems like accomplishing [results] would make a big impact for you. Is there a reason you haven’t brought in the other members of your team?”

Sometimes, you need to show highly motivated prospects your solution is the best for their situation. But sometimes, you need to prove they need a solution at all before you can show the value of your specific product. These seven questions will allow you to to separate the first type of buyer from the second.

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