Inside Sales Buzz Blog

Inside Sales, Scripts & Cold Call Techniques from Michael Pedone

The Best Sales Prospecting Qualification Questions to Ask

by MichaelPedone 10. September 2014 11:06

I recently read an article that touted what the “BEST SALES PROSPECTING QUALIFICATION QUESTIONS” were to ask. I was excited. I wanted to see what these “best questions” were.

So I read. And then I was let down. Hard. Here’s why... 

At the top of the list, the very first “best” sales prospecting qualification question to ask was:

What challenges are you experiencing with your current process/technology?

Here’s why that is far from being the “best” sales prospecting qualifying question to ask:

For starters, almost every sales person, no matter what they are selling, asks the “What challenges are you experiencing?” (or very similar) qualifying question.

Now put yourself in your prospects shoes for a moment. If you are a decision maker where you work, that means you are getting calls from tons of different salespeople in all different verticals every week.

And no matter what it is they are selling, they all start to sound the same to you. It won’t take long for prospects to tune out a salesperson that asks that question. 

You, as a sales professional, want to separate yourself from the everyday average sales herd. You want to stand out from the pack. Be unique. Especially early on in the sales process.

With that being said, let’s get one thing straight— The “What challenges are you experiencing with...” qualifying question is attempting to uncover a buying motive or what I like to call, get “problem recognition.

When a sales person asks “What challenges are you experiencing with…” they are hoping that the prospect will spill the beans on their biggest headaches and hand them their problems on a silver platter. And if you are in customer service, and you handle inbound calls from prospects that are wanting you to solve a problem for them, then by all means, ask the “What challenges are you experiencing with…” question.

But the article said they were going to show the best “sales prospecting qualifying questions to ask” and if you are PROSPECTING, you aren’t in customer service and you aren’t sitting around waiting for inbound calls.

You’re making outbound sales calls to prospects that, in most cases, weren’t expecting your call. And if you get past the opener (what you say after “Hello, my name is…”) and they are still on the phone, and you ask the “What challenges are you experiencing?” question, well, today’s prospects are going to get annoyed real fast with you. 

It’s not your prospects job to educate you.


Let me explain. Every business is only in business because they solve specific problems for certain audiences. You need to know what those most common or popular problems are, and also know what CAUSES those problems and THAT is where you will find your buying motive (problem recognition) question to ask.


When I’m speaking with a prospect, instead of asking “What challenges are you experiencing?” I’ll ask these questions:
  1. How often does your team get blocked by gatekeepers? (All day long!)
  2. What about voicemails… are they getting a fair amount of prospects to call them back? (No!)
  3. What about when they actually get a decision maker on the phone… do they hear “No, Thanks” / “Not Interested” / “We’re all set!” responses? (YES!!!)
We confirmed the challenges that they are having and my questions were unique to their situation. I didn’t sound like everyone else. And since those are the areas that I specialize in fixing, I know I can help them.

Once you’ve crystalized who your targeted audience is and what problems they have to have that would make them interested in your solutions, only then will you be able to come up with the right “buying motive” or “problem recognition” qualifying questions for your specific audience.

And guess what?! Your question will be unique, and specific to your targeted audience. It won’t sound like all the other sales calls your prospect gets all day long. And here’s the best part: when they answer it, it will be genuine and insightful.

Michael Pedone is the CEO/FOUNDER of An online sales training company that helps Sales Managers, VP of Sales and Small Business owners fine-tune their inside sales teams phone skills so they can perform at a higher level when selling by phone.

"Michael Pedone is one of the few sales trainers that actually knows what he's talking about. Take his course. It's money in the bank." - Jeffrey Gitomer

Categories: Sales Questions

How to Ask Sales Questions, The Right Way

by MichaelPedone 8. September 2014 09:20


"I'm saying and asking the same thing as other sales reps here in the office, but I'm not having the same success as they are. How is that possible?"

SalesBuzz Answer:

When creating a dialogue with a prospect and asking questions, if your tone is off, the sales call can go south, really fast. What you say and how you say it are both equally important.


Asking "IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS" Qualifying Questions

Identifying Problems Qualifying Questions are vital in the sales process. They are a series of questions that will establish if your prospect has an actual problem (whether they realized it before you asked or not). Most prospects will be more motivated to hearing a solution, once they recognize a problem.

Let's say you sell a product or a service that helps companies' complete projects on time. You know that a big hot button for your targeted audience is they need to avoid missing deadlines, because if they don't, some uncomfortable conversations are going to happen. So in this scenario, an example of an IDENTIFYING A PROBLEM qualifying question could be:

Does your team have deadlines to hit?

Now, there are at least two ways you can ask, "Does your team have deadlines to hit?"

One is in an eager tone (you're practically drooling as you ask this question) and the other is in an "inquisitive concern" tone.

If your prospect feels your intent is anything but concern, YOU. ARE. DONE.

How to Ask With the Right Tone

Sometimes "sales" can be tough. Especially when your numbers are down, bills are piling up and management has a microscope on you. Asking questions with the right tone when you are in those circumstances can be a real challenge.

Here's what I've found to be extremely helpful to make sure I have the right tone, no matter how much outside pressure is on me:

Simply pretend that the person on the other end of the phone was referred to you by your best friend and it's their aunt or uncle. This will help you get your tone where it needs to be: In "help" mode. Not "sell" mode.

And when you are asking the right sales questions, at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons, your prospects will open up, you'll find solutions together and you'll earn their business.


Michael Pedone -'s CSS: Chief Sales Scientist

Michael Pedone, founder and CEO of, has been a straight commissioned sales person for 20+ years and shares his unique inside sales process for success in an 8-week live online sales training program.

Categories: Sales Questions

Turn Your Sales Script Into a Conversation

by MichaelPedone 26. August 2014 06:38

How to Turn Your Sales Script Into a Conversation


"I don't like using sales scripts because they don't encourage genuine organic conversations with prospects. Do you agree?"

SalesBuzz Answer:

I disagree with this statement and here's why...

Top sales scripts that work follow a formula that creates a conversation between the two parties.

It follows a successful process that allows for dialogue while covering (or uncovering) key steps needed in order to determine if an opportunity exists, if you are speaking with the right person and if the prospect can afford your solution to their problem, all while having a "conversation".

Bad sales scripts on the other hand, fail because they try and hypnotize the prospect into a yes pattern or get forced agreements from the prospect.


When you realize that sales can be broken down into small, winnable objectives or agreements, sales scripts quickly become your ally, and not your enemy.

Knowing exactly what to say BEFORE ever picking up the phone, no matter if you get a gatekeeper, prospect's voicemail or the decision maker on your sales call, will catapult your sales numbers far and above any Captain Wing-Its out there that continuously fly by the seat of their pants, sales call after sales call.

Understanding what your objectives are of each phase of the sales cycle, and using the proper script to execute them, allows for measured success while still allowing for the sales person to "be themselves" while having room to ad-lib where necessary.


Michael Pedone -'s CSS: Chief Sales Scientist


Discussing Price With Prospects - What to do first

by MichaelPedone 19. August 2014 09:16


"I frequently speak with prospects that sound very interested in what we offer but once I email them the proposal, it's hard to get them back on the phone or to answer my emails. Why does this happen?"

SalesBuzz Answer:

If you've sent out (emailed) a proposal and aren't hearing back from your prospects, chances are your sales process (what sales questions you ask, when you ask them, why you ask them, how you ask them) has you missing one or more of these steps:

Did you identify a problem and get agreement from the prospect that they want it solved?

If you simply asked a few "probing questions" that gave YOU the understanding that there's a problem, but failed to have the prospect realize a problem (or an opportunity for them to be better), there's no reason for them to use your service - even if they like it, and even it was FREE! (Ever felt like you couldn't give it away? Now you know why)

What role does the prospect play in the decision making hierarchy? If they said they were the "decision maker", how did you confirm this?

Salespeople like to use titles as a way of identifying decision makers... I've got news for you:

Each company has their own way of doing business. Assuming you're speaking to the decision maker just because their title is CEO is a huge mistake.

What does their ideal solution to the problem look like?

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a sales call where they ask you a few probing questions and then go off into a sales pitch that is the equivalent of the world's longest run-on sentence? What would it have been like for that sales person to ask YOU what the ideal solution looks like, and then matched what they offered to what you are after?

When would they like to solve it (time frame)?

Are you selling on your time frame or the prospects? Are you more worried about getting the deal in so it can count towards this months commission check, or are you seeking to understand what's best for the prospect?

Did you find out what was going to happen once you disclosed price?

If you don't know what steps are going to be taken once price is given, how do you know if this is an opportunity for this month's or this quarters' numbers? Your manager wants an accurate forecast. Not a hope-for-the-best forecast.

Once you've identified the above, did you uncover if your price range was doable for them? Was it within their means?

If you do the above steps correctly, price won't be a stall objection. Sure, some prospects may still want to try and negotiate, but negotiation isn't a stall objection.

With that said, not EVERYONE will be able to afford your solution. Have a strategy that addresses the "price qualifying" step in the sales process - and make sure it's one that gets you the answer you need (the truth - if they can afford it) and not just the answer you wanted.


Michael Pedone -'s CSS: Chief Sales Scientist - Online Sales Training Program


How to Warm Up Cold Leads with an Email

by MichaelPedone 12. August 2014 07:42


"We're using cold email campaigns to try and warm up leads before inside sales calls on them. My question is, when should the sales reps be calling after we know an email has been read by the prospect? We know speed is critical but I feel that responding too quickly has too much of a "Big Brother" feel to it. Your thoughts?"

SalesBuzz Answer:

First things first... Sending a cold email to a prospect before calling them doesn't "warm" them up.

The definition of a warm lead is when a prospect is raising their hand. That's it.

How many times have you sent an email out, tracked it with tools that told you when the prospect opened the email only to call them and have them still give you some sort of blow-off or stall? I'm betting a lot!

How to Really Warm Up a Lead Via Email Marketing

Understand that the end game is to get your prospects to reach out to you! A warm lead is when a prospect raises their hand (by either picking up the phone and calling you or filling out a form on your website and submits a request to be contacted).

If you truly want to "warm up" leads for your inside sales team through email marketing, here's what you need to do:

  1. Start with a quality list. This means use resources that attract your target audience that want to hear from you again. Developing and then promoting valuable "how to solve" webinars is a great way to attract targeted prospects and build your email marketing list. (For an example of this, view our free voicemail strategies webinar) You will want to STAY AWAY from purchasing lists, etc.
  2. Be consistent. Sporadic "Hey, we need deals so let's blast out a mass email" campaigns often do more harm than good. You want to have well thought out material that goes out on a consistent basis for your audience to read.
  3. HEADLINES THAT HIT HOT BUTTONS. Your subject line and your headline in the email have to be short and creative. Something that HITS your targeted audiences hot buttons!
  4. Help, not Sell. Solve, not Promote. The content of your email should not be about you and what your product or service does, but rather focus on a problem that your audience has and that your company is an expert at solving, and then give the information away for FREE on how to solve it! This makes your targeted audience WANT to read what it is that you have to offer. It also builds your brand as a valuable resource - a Subject Matter Expert, if you will, to your targeted audience. The majority of your email list won't have a problem that needs solving right now, however, as you provide quality advice on solving issues they deal with, when a problem arises that they can no longer afford to ignore, they will know who to call / contact. And now you reap the benefit of speaking with a warm lead that you can help.
  5. Call to Action. Make sure that at the end of your email marketing campaign / newsletter that you have a clear CALL TO ACTION for those who may be in need at this moment for your particular expertise. Make it clear and easy for them to hit the CONTACT ME I NEED HELP button so that your inside sales team can be busy helping prospects that need it, rather than trying to figure out who to call that has read the email.
Just make sure your inside sales team knows what to say when calling those warm leads. The last thing you want after investing the time to generate those true warm leads is to have your sales team blow it by calling them and saying "Did you have any questions?" or "I'm just following up".


Michael Pedone -'s CSS: Chief Sales Scientist


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About the Author

Michael Pedone, founder and CEO of Live Online Sales Training Company
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