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I’ll cover topics ranging from what to say and what not to say all the way to making your potential client feel validated, how to form genuine connections, staying motivated when you’re dragging, studying speech patters and intonation, how to remain in control of the conversation and managing the gatekeeper.

10 Killer Qualifying Questions to ask during a Cold Call

One of the key factors that set successful salespeople on the path to success is their habit of finding and talking to the right people. Very often, a salesperson will spend significant time and effort on a really well-presented call, only to be met with the classic: “I’ll have to pass this on to the guy that makes the buying decisions”.

Why is this? Well, in most cases, simply the fact that they neglected to properly qualify the potential customer!

Today’s potential customers are generally well-educated and informed, and this means that you need to be prepared and knowledgeable about what their needs and skill levels are. For a start, is your prospect worth meeting? Is he the actual Decision Maker (the DM), or does he just like to think he is? Is he a self-appointed ‘gatekeeper’ who decides which people get to see his boss?

Knowing this, up front – could potentially save you a massive amount of time and effort.

It’s also critical to establish whether the subject of your call actually needs your product or service. Yes, we know you can sell ice to the proverbial Eskimo, but ideally, your goal is to build up a long-term relationship as opposed to a ‘hit-and-run’ string of sales. The very best outcome is a win-win scenario where you benefit because your customer is delighted and wants to do more business with you. So, how do you find out what their needs are?

There are a few simple but important questions that you need to ask: questions which will tell you whether the potential customer needs your product and whether they can afford it – two categories that need to be established up front.

There’s a balancing act here: you have to get the answers you need, but without coming across as being invasive or pushy. So, it makes sense to scale your approach – ask the least invasive questions first, and as you build rapport, get to the important ones. And, of course, do it concisely and intelligently, so your potential customer doesn’t lose interest or become irritated!

You can use the well-known concept of ‘closed’ and ‘open-ended’ questions here. An example of a ‘closed’ question is one that invites a yes or no answer, for example: ‘Am I correctly informed that you’re the manager of XYZ’?

An open-ended question might be: ‘As the manager of XYZ, what do you do when…?’, or ‘How so?’, or ‘I see – tell me more!’

If your potential client is clearly busy and wants to cut you short, then start with a few quick yes/no questions, and add one or two open-ended questions. You’ll quickly discern whether they are potentially interested and worth a follow-up.

Here are some really useful questions that will make your job that much easier:

  1. What is it exactly that you do?
  2. Are you satisfied with your current service provider?
  3. How does your company make the decision to buy?
  4. How does your company purchase products of this type?
  5. Under what circumstances would you be willing to buy or switch to a new product?
  6. How can I serve you best?
  7. What role do you play in the decision making process?
  8. Is there anything in particular that might get in the way of us doing business together?
  9. Who else in your company should I be following up with?
  10. What will it cost you if your company continues with the way things are today?

Modern business takes place in a competitive market. Be willing to get out there, ask those questions, and develop the skill to do it automatically and effortlessly – while making your potential customers feel comfortable with the process.

Gary Player, the golfer, famously once said: ‘The more I practice, the luckier I get.’

So, there’s only one thing left to do: reach out, and pick up that phone. Go for it!

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