What are sales Critical Questions: characteristics, importance, examples

One of the main problems in sales nowadays is the insufficient knowledge of customers’ needs that salespeople demonstrate. This is why 71% of B2B customers aren’t engaged. Still, it’s possible to improve the situation if sales reps understand the necessity of asking leads right critical questions.

What are critical questions?

Critical questions are questions that salespeople ask leads, commonly during discovery calls. They help sales reps uncover leads’ needs and pain points, build rapport, and clearly articulate their offering’s value.

Sales critical questions allow contacting your potential customers personally, learning about their buyer persona, finding out what is important to them, and moving them smoothly through the sales funnel

Characteristics of critical questions

On the surface, critical questions don’t have much structural difference from standard special questions. However, they have some meaningful, distinctive features:

  • They require critical thinking, hence the term.
  • They are open-ended, usually starting with How or five W’s: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. 
  • They are conversational, meaning that they provoke a dialogue.
  • Although they aren’t based on a particular formula, they are usually well-thought-out beforehand.
  • They are personal, i.e., based on personal experiences and feelings rather than factual information.

Why are critical questions important?

They prolong your phone conversation with a prospect

Prospects differ. Some of them aren’t willing to dedicate their time to sales reps. As a rule, the average successful cold call lasts 5:50 (compared to 3:14 for unsuccessful calls). 

Asking open-ended critical questions, you have a chance to prolong the conversation and get more valuable information from a prospect. However, remember that you shouldn’t keep it too long and tiring. 

They allow prospects to express their needs

Critical questions get prospects to verbalize their wants. As a result, both your potential customers and you have a better understanding of what they need. This gives you the green light to demonstrate your readiness to help them make a decision.  

They help derive information

You may adjust your questions when you offer your prospects possible options as a kind of a hook. For example, let’s take one of the Snov.io products — Email Finder. If our sales rep contacted a potential customer, they could ask, “How do you usually find your clients? Via LinkedIn, Google, referrals, or any other channel?” 

Even if neither of the alternatives fits, the prospect will most likely tell our salesperson the right answer, and they will know what turn their sales strategy should take next. 

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They help deal with objections

It’s not unusual when sales reps get ‘No’ from prospects. Many salespeople fall out at this moment, but it’s not the end. Critical questions can help a sales rep understand whether the objection is real or just an excuse and turn ‘No’ into ‘Yes’ in the future.

Critical questions examples

To gain the best results, sales professionals should prepare such critical questions that will help them smoothly direct a potential customer to make a purchase. Here are six types of critical questions with examples to enrich your sales approach. 

Rapport-building questions

They help you establish a personal touch and build trust with potential customers.

Examples:

  • What’s going on in your business these days? 
  • How do you feel about recent changes in your industry?
  • What company values, in your opinion, help you develop your product?

Buyer-history questions

Asking them will let you understand the potential clients’ past experiences and make a better picture of their buyer behavior. You can also find out more facts about the history of their current relationship with one of your competitors.

Examples:

  • What was your past purchase experience with the product/service of this type? [mention your product/service].
  • What do you think about the relationship with your current service provider?
  • What do you think made you buy a product from this vendor?

Needs and goals-based questions

A lot is said about discovering a prospect’s pain points and needs as the cornerstone of the effective sales process. But it’s not enough. You should forecast what needs your potential buyer may be having in the future. To find it out, concentrate your critical questions on their goals as well. 

Examples:

  • What, in your opinion, could or should be improved in your current product/service?
  • What goals and objectives do you have concerning the solution you are using now?
  • What’s preventing you from achieving your goals?

Benefit-driven questions

To turn a prospect into a customer, you need to be ready to demonstrate your product’s or service’s benefits in such a light that will get them to make a purchase. Benefit-driven questions will help you understand what features your prospects value the most and then use them to describe the positive impact of your product/service on their business.

Besides, at this point, you may also ask about other solutions your prospect may be considering to communicate a competitive advantage of your product/service. 

Examples:

  • If you don’t solve this challenge [the one your prospect has mentioned before], what difficulties may it bring your company in the future?
  • If you solve this problem right now, how will it influence your position in the market?
  • How do other solutions you are considering compare with this offer?

New reality questions

You should ask these critical questions for your prospects to draw a positive picture of their business and then connect it with the solution you offer.  

Examples:

  • If you had no restrictions on budget and time and concentrated all authority in your hands, what would you change about your current system to see your company’s considerable growth in two years?
  • What challenges will you overcome first if you use this solution?
  • What would you want to achieve next year provided you give this solution a try?

Objection-based questions

They will help you get prepared for the prospect’s objections before they arise.

Examples:

  • Objection: “I am not interested in your product or service right now.” 
    Question: “When do you think we can return to the question about how we can save [insert %] of your budget with this product/service?”
  • Objection: “It is not affordable now.”  
    Question: “What budget have you allocated for the similar solution?”
  • Objection: “I need to discuss it with my colleagues.” 
    Question: “Who else is involved in the decision-making?”

You may also find information on how to react to email objections in this post

Wrapping it up

Sales critical questions allow you to reach potential buyers, smoothly engage them into the conversation, and ignite their purchase decision. Unlike direct pitching, critical questions are an implicit mechanism of involving a prospect into the sales process. 

Even though they are not based on any formula, you should think them over while preparing your sales strategy. We hope our critical questions examples will help you come up with the ideas you’ll successfully use in your sales routine. 

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