During your first conversation with a prospective customer, your job is to discover if they've got the money to buy your offering and if you're talking to the person who has the authority to buy.

To this end, there are fourteen questions that you should memorize so that you can introduce one or more of them during your initial customer conversation, according to the Keith Rosen, author of Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions:

  1. How does your company purchase products of this type?
  2. How does your company make the decision to buy?
  3. What are the organizational relationships that influence the decision?
  4. Who are the people typically involved in this decision making process?
  5. What ego or ownership issues come up that need to be managed and respected that I need to be mindful of?
  6. If you don't buy at this time, what remedial actions do you plan to take?
  7. How will your current vendors react to the possibility you'll buy from us?
  8. What are the concerns or roadblocks that could crop up down the road and get in the way of us working together?
  9. What are the timely and relevant issues that are going on internally?
  10. What is the overall mood of the company and its leaders?
  11. Who else in your company should I be presenting to and following up with?
  12. What challenges are you still faced with that your current solution still does not solve or address as effectively as you would like?
  13. What internal resources can you leverage to try and resolve this issue on your own?
  14. What will it cost you and your company if you keep things the way they are today?

The beauty of these questions is that they're likely to spark a conversation that will allow you to assess whether there's a real need for what you're selling and whether there's already some budget allocated to buy it.

Note: don't pepper the customers with these questions like an interrogator giving a prisoner the "third degree." Work them into the conversation as you discuss the customer's situation and business goals.

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