Questions You Should Ask In Your First Appointment in B2B Sales

The mistake I’ve seen made countless times by unsuccessful reps is to gain access to a prospect for a meeting and gain no valid or vital information. I’ve known reps to spend more than an hour with a prospect and walk out of the meeting having little more insight into a prospect or opportunity than when they walked in.

In selling B2B solutions the first-in appointment is not about you, it’s about them. The smart rep will use this time to gather as much information about the prospect as possible. Too many reps make the assumption that every business out there could benefit from their product or service but that is simply not true. Even if there was such a global need for your service that would only mean more competitors are out there to share the market.

The result is a rep who walks into a meeting, exchanges business cards with the prospect, and spends the next forty minutes pitching every bell, whistle and widget of their product without the slightest clue of a prospect’s motivation or pain point. A simple example I’ve used in training involves a rep taking forty minutes to espouse the virtues of his new and incredible hammer only to find out that the prospect has abandoned the use of nails to assemble his product in favor of screws. The unfortunate rep then learns that he has used up all his allotted time with the prospect and can no longer tell him about his latest screw driver design.

Are you getting the point? It is foolish to pitch a prospect when you have no clear idea of the opportunity.

You know your solution inside and out, at least as well as your field engineers, but that’s not enough to qualify an opportunity. You may have done a full assessment on an opportunity and concluded that it is a perfect fit for your solution. Putting the opportunity into your pipeline at this stage is a mistake. There are many more factors involved in determining the validity of an opportunity, and if you are to have any chance of closing the deal you’d better uncover the details.

Here is a list of the critical information required to successfully propose a solution by category:

1. Budget

Is there a firm budget for the project?

What is the budget for the project?

What is the current cost structure?

Did you capture all the cost centers?

What is the financial motivation?

Is the prospect looking at cost savings?

Is the prospect being required to make an expenditure?

2. Authority

Does your contact have the authority to approve the deal? (Can he say yes?)

Does you contact have the authority to veto the deal? (Can he say no?)

What is the decision process?

Who else is involved?

What are the titles and functions of all the players?

Note: The most critical player is the officer who has veto authority. I can tell you from experience that many times your contact will have the impression that they are working on a project they have absolute authority to sign off on, only to learn that the boss has been eyeing up a new Jaguar and there is no way he’s spending any money on a new telephone switch!

3. Motivation

What is the motivation behind the project?

Process improvement?

Contract termination?

Replace damaged system?

Service review?

The fundamental question to answer is, “Why are they buying?”

A process improvement sale is vastly different than replacing an incumbent.

4. Current Environment

How are you doing it now?

Who are you doing it with?

What are the positives and negatives of the current environment?

5. Product, Service, Solution

Do you have a clear understanding of the desired result?

Is there a clear advantage to adopting your product or service?

Are you clear on the prospect’s expectations?

Have you set the prospect’s expectations for the change?

6. Competition

Who is your competition?

What are they proposing?

Why did they invite competition?

Why did they invite you?

7. What are the buying criteria?




Name recognition?



What are some of the reasons you would LOSE the deal?

8. Time Frame

What is the time frame for a decision?

How can you modify the time frame?

Who else is involved?

Build a list of questions that are suited to your specific product and be certain to address each one in specific detail. When you have answers to each of these categories begin developing a solution to meet each of the requirements. If you are able to meet or exceed each of the requirements your probability of closing the business is quite high. For each category you are unable to meet, your chances of winning drop exponentially.

Ignoring a category or dismissing it as unimportant is setting yourself up for failure.

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