It is critical for inside sales reps to ask the right qualifying questions when first talking to prospects. Too often, sales reps are so focused on presenting their sales pitch that they end up doing way too much talking and not nearly enough listening. Knowing which questions to ask – and what specific answers to look out for – is the key to qualifying prospects and getting them to the next stage of the sales pipeline. We asked sales managers and reps for their thoughts on what they believed to be best practices for qualifying prospects.

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One Word Response Questions

After your brief introduction, your initial questions should be designed to get either a yes or no response. The importance of soliciting a basic one-word answer is that it is more likely to keep the conversation humming, allowing you some time to ultimately get to the important qualifying questions. If you bombard your prospects with an elaborate question designed to lead to a long sales pitch, it is likely you will receive an immediate no or the sound of a disconnected line.

‘Why’ or ‘How’ Process Questions

These questions should still be kept as simple and basic as possible, but you should try to ask a ‘how’ question to get your prospect to open up and do more of the talking, giving you information that you can utilize to your advantage. The first type of qualifying question is usually a ‘how’ process question about a specific part of their selling process.

Pain Point Questions

Your next type of question should be ‘why’ questions about the specific process you’re trying to gain insight into and why that process is or isn’t working. However, you should avoid putting words in the prospect’s mouth or even trying to diagnose their problem, as this could backfire by making them angry or leading to a conversation about a problem your product can’t solve.

Budget and Time Frame Questions

After you’ve gotten your prospect to open up about their pain points, your next step should be to ask if it’s a problem they have – or are trying – to fix, also known as the budget question.  For example, asking a prospect if they have ever looked into a specific solution tends to incite more open-ended ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. Your goal is to either qualify the prospect and progress them along to the next stage or get poor fits out of your sales pipeline as early as possible.

Concluding or Wrap-Up Questions

Once you’ve gotten enough information to either qualify or disqualify the prospect, your next step is getting them to the next stage of your opportunity pipeline. Instead of extending this preliminary conversation longer than it needs to be, you should try to end it with something like “Why don’t we set up a time to discuss this further?”


The importance of getting sales reps to ask the right questions during this initial qualifying stage can’t be stressed enough. Sales reps responsible for this stage of the selling process should use this as a guide for qualifying or disqualifying leads, as it will help to maintain your company’s healthy opportunity pipeline.

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