20 Essential Questions for B2B Lead Qualification

By Giuseppe D’Angelo

Are you frustrated when your salespeople squander your hard-earned leads? If so, you’re not alone. Reps ignore 80 percent of the leads marketing generates.

If you don’t want to waste time and money generating leads that reps push aside, ensure that those leads are so well-qualified your reps can’t wait to pursue them. Of course, this is easier said than done.

What do salespeople want? You’ve heard it before—leads that have the budget, the authority to buy, a need to solve a problem, a time frame to get it done, and are a good fit for your solution. It’s known as BANTS. While it’s a simple list of requirements, determining who meets them is not easy unless you’re armed with the right questions. Use the following as your guide.

Need: Find the Pain

Just because the acronym is BANTS, it doesn’t mean you should start with questions about the budget. First you want to uncover the individual’s pain and learn how you can help with an opportunity.

Ask these questions:

  • What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
  • How do you deal with them today?
  • What are the consequences of not dealing with these issues?
  • How do you see your business changing over the next one or two years?

These questions reveal much about the individual’s situation and their daily frustrations. They can also broaden your understanding of how your solution could help.

Solution: Is There a Fit?

To learn more about whether you might be able to offer an ideal answer to the problem, ask:

  • Ideally, what would you be able to achieve with the right solution?
  • What is your “must have” or “nice to have” solution?
  • What solutions are you currently using?

You can then ask follow-up questions related to the specifics of your product or solution. For instance, you might want to ask how critical specific benefits are to the prospect and whether they can achieve these benefits with their current product or with a competitive offering they are considering.

Budget: Show Me the Money

It’s frustrating for a salesperson to waste time pursuing a lead that will never come to fruition because the budget isn’t there and never will be. These questions can prevent that from happening.

  • How much is this problem costing your organization? Rather than starting by asking a prospect whether they have a budget for a project, set the framework by discussing how much the problem is costing them. For instance, if you have a solution that prevents computer system downtime, ask how much downtime costs their company.
  • Do you have a budget for this project? This is an easy question with a “yes” or “no” answer. If, however, you receive a “no,” you shouldn’t immediately disqualify the lead. It doesn’t mean the organization won’t come up with a budget in the future, just that it’s early in their buying cycle. If the prospect gives you a negative response, follow up with the next question.
  • Given that this problem is costing you $X a year, how much could you see investing in solving it? If they provide an answer that’s reasonable given your company’s solution, that’s good. However, because the prospect may not know how much solutions cost, they may not be able to provide an answer. If so, you’ll need to give them some cost parameters.
  • Our solution to this problem could run anywhere from $X to $Y. Would you be likely to invest that amount in it? With this extra piece of information, your prospect may feel comfortable letting you know the upper limit of what they might invest, or they might give you a budget range.
  • Who oversees the budget? It’s good to find out who is in control of the budget and whether you’ll need to convince other members of the buying team.

Authority: Who’s the Decision-Maker?

You want to find out who has the authority to buy. If the person you’re talking with has a low level of clout in the company, it doesn’t mean you’ve reached a dead end. They can help you map out the buying influencers and decision-makers within the organization. Once you know who is on the buying team, you can reach out to them.

  • How will your organization evaluate a solution to this issue? This question is intentionally broad to elicit as much information as possible about the decision-making process. Ideally, you’ll learn who the stakeholders are, what their roles are, and who has the authority to make decisions. If your contact is less forthcoming, you may have to ask some more pointed questions.
  • Who else in your company does this problem affect, and what are their roles in determining a solution? You’re starting to piece together the buying team, but you want insights straight from the individuals involved. Request permission to talk to these individuals.
  • Would it make sense for me to call (name of buying team member) to gain their perspective? The more people on the team you can talk with, the less likely it is that a last-minute objection could derail the sale.
  • Who signs off on the final decision? Don’t forget to ask this question if the prospect has not answered it in response to the previous inquiries.

Timeframe: How Urgent Is It?

Every businessperson faces many problems, only a few of which can bubble to the top of the to-do list. So ask a couple of questions to establish the level of urgency to act.

  • Ideally, when would you like to solve this problem?
  • Regarding priorities, where does solving this problem fit?

Next Steps: How Interested Are They Learning About Your Solution?

The following questions are essential in gauging a prospect’s interest in investing more time in learning about your solution. This also helps you move to the next phase of the sales process.

  • What are the steps we would need to take to make this deal happen?
  • When is the best date and time to schedule our next call or set up a meeting?

Qualifying leads is an essential ingredient in an effective, efficient sales process. If your reps aren’t jumping to follow up on your leads, review your current lead qualification questions and add in those you’re missing. By doing so, you’ll ensure that all leads qualified for your sales team meet the budget, authority, need, timing, and solution-fit criteria. Then all your salespeople will need to do is what they do best: close the deal.

Giuseppe D’Angelo graduated from I.T.I.S. Euclide with a degree in information technology. In 2003 he joined 3D2B and has become a senior project manager for the Italian and Spanish markets, responsible for generating leads and revenues.