This is the Most Important Qualifying Question

If I asked you what the most important qualifying question was, what would you (or your team) say?


Decision making process?

Buying motives?

Needs or pain points?

These are all important, of course, but they aren’t what—in my mind—is most important of all. And that is:

Timeline for making a decision to move forward.

The reason timeline is the most important is that it encompasses all of the above. If a prospect is looking to move forward “as soon as possible,” for example, it means that budget is in place.

It also means that the decision makers have all agreed that their buying motives (needs) are such that a decision needs to be made now. Everybody is onboard.

In addition, what is also important about timeline is that if the prospect you’re speaking to isn’t in the market at this moment, it means you can relax behind your pitch.

For example, if your prospect isn’t looking to make a decision until the next quarter or two, this changes the way you pitch your product or service. Now, instead of moving toward the close, you can adjust and move toward other issues like other decision makers and exactly what is going to change at that time, and what they’ll need to see and hear to choose you.

Conversely, if a prospect has a burning need to purchase as soon as possible, this also helps you adjust your pitch and your follow up actions. Perhaps you need to get in front of the other decision makers (like today!), or perhaps you can make an offer that has a timeline attached to it.

One of the biggest mistakes I see many reps making is to neglect asking about timeline and instead just keep pitching their product or service. The problem with this is that when they get to the end, they don’t have a clear idea how to drive the close. What do they do next? Is there urgency or not?

If you don’t know the proper timeline, it’s hard to make the right next suggestions and plan the best next steps.

The next time you’re qualifying a prospect, always ask this question:

“Assuming you like what you see during our presentation next week, walk me through the process to get this approved and what your timeline is for putting us to work for you?”

Trust me, this question will change everything for you and your team…

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Any sales reps dealing with the following issues:

  • Reps struggling with call reluctance
  • Getting screened out by the gatekeeper
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  • Identifying decision makers
  • Qualifying prospects
  • Setting call back appointments that stick
  • Giving successful presentations and dealing with objections
  • Staying motivated