You might have a great list of leads—tight, honed and secure. You might have a great product—you know it’s a lifesaver. You might know generating leads is about quality, not quantity—and you’ve done the legwork to get their contact info.

Now, it’s question time.

During first contact with your sales leads, and even before you do, you should make sure you’re prepared. You need to have the right script and know what you’re both getting into. After all, selling is a conversation; it isn’t a one-way street where you just hammer away your sales points until they acquiesce or just hang up on you. You need to listen to them, understand their points of view and engage with them on a human level.  

There are a few questions that can help get you there. Make sure you’re asking these important questions to qualify your ideal customers before going in for the hard sell.

What will they think of me?

There’s a classic scene in Seinfeld where Jerry picks up the phone and gets a telemarketer. “Sorry,” he says, “now’s not a good time. How about I get your home number and call you back? Oh, you don’t want people calling you at your home? Now you know how I feel.” And then he hangs up on them, while the studio audience wildly cheers.

It’s a great concept, but it also forces salespeople to ask themselves how they’re being perceived. Am I being annoying? How would I honestly react to these sales tactics? Am I being human enough? Am I working off a script that feels wooden and stale?  




Always be reflecting on how you’re going to be perceived on the other end of the phone. You can always tell what will work and what won’t, but you should constantly be re-evaluating your performance and thinking of ways to improve.  

Do they match your customer profile?

It’s worthwhile to double-check a lead’s validity by reviewing your company’s customer profile and seeing how well they match up. If you don’t, you could risk trying to sell them on something at the wrong time, or getting so caught up in details that you lose sight of the main goal and audience.  

People generally appreciate honesty. If you feel like they’re not a good match for your company, you can tell them that, and offer advice on how they might find an alternative solution. Later down the line, they’ll keep your company in mind if they hit a point when your product might be of use to them.

What are your leads’ pain points?

You should have some basic information about your sales leads going into the conversation. If you’ve done your research and know how they found you—whether by searching for a particular term or joining a webinar, for example—you might find clues that will illuminate their pain points, the reasons they’re interested in your product in the first place.

This is a crucial initial step toward having the right conversation and will help avoid wasting your time and theirs by asking redundant questions. You don’t want them to grow impatient before your pitch kicks in.

If you don’t have this information beforehand, establish it quickly in the conversation so you know whether their pain points match up with your company’s goals. If not, and they don’t match your customer profile, you’re better off to cut your losses early.

How do they make decisions?

You should find this out in your first conversation with your lead since you likely won’t know before chatting with them.

Do they need to consult other people—team members, family, bosses? How long does it typically take to reach a decision like this? What’s the approval process like?

Getting these nuts-and-bolts details out of the way off the bat helps alleviate stress on all sides, and gives you an idea of how long this relationship could last. It also gives you an opportunity to show your own patience and that you’re not in a hurry to sell them right then and there.

What other solutions might they be considering—and why?

You surely know your selling points that boost your product over your competitors’, but do your leads?

Just like asking them about their decision-making process, you’ll want to establish context right away. If you’re selling soybeans to a vegetarian restaurant opening soon, for example, you’ll want to know where else they were thinking of getting soybeans and why they might choose your competitor instead of you. They might also be considering growing their own soybeans—an in-house solution—or not offering soybeans at all.

All of these are viable alternatives to partnering with your soybean company, and before you start hitting your sales points, you should listen to what they have to say and consider their reasoning. If they tell you they’re growing them on a farm in the restaurant’s backyard because that’s the restaurant’s shtick, then you don’t need to waste more of anyone’s time—you can leave a good impression and your number, and move on to the next lead.