New tools to improve performance
on April 7, 2021 (last modified on May 22, 2023) • 22 minute read
Do you take on every customer willing to buy your services? That tactic might not be the best strategy. When we consulted business professionals about the prospecting process, 9 out of 10 take on 75% or less of prospects who can pay.
How can you vet prospects like these experts? A prospect survey like a new client marketing questionnaire will help you screen potential clients for higher quality business relationships.
In this blog post, we’ll explain what a client prospect questionnaire is, the questions to include and exclude and your options for distribution. Let’s begin:
A client prospect questionnaire is a survey consisting of questions used to evaluate a prospect. It works similarly to a new client questionnaire, but it’s used for prospecting instead of onboarding.
Client prospect questionnaires work well in a wide range of service-based industries, including marketing, tech and professional services. For example, Forefathers Group, a design agency, swears by these surveys because of their benefit to designers and service-based businesses. They save time that could be wasted for both parties during an ill-fitting professional relationship.
It’s also worth noting that client prospect questionnaires benefit your leads and customers, too. These simple documents will help you show a genuine interest in their expectations, goals and values.
Once you have one of these prospect questionnaires, you can incorporate it into the end of your sales pipeline for better leads and conversions. Try asking your sales-qualified leads (SQLs) the questions on your document to see if they affect your sales conversions.
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The sales experts we asked about client prospect questionnaires use a variety of question categories to get the information they need. They consider organizational information and project information the two most important question types to ask, but a significant amount of respondents also valued technical and working information.
Looking at this data, we can infer that the right mix of questions will depend on your work, but you’ll want to get relevant organizational and project info before signing a contract.
As we consulted these sales professionals, we also asked them for their must-have questions for their questionnaires. They had 14 to share:
Some of the most popular questions brought up in our survey related to client goals.
“‘What are your goals?’ This question allows our agency to gain a better understanding of the types of strategies we should pursue to best suit the needs of their organization,” says Online Optimism’s Irene Wambui Muchai Lopez.
Client goals are especially important to know when you tailor your services to each customer. Lopez explains, “All of our campaigns are customized to the unique goals of our clients. By knowing what these expectations and milestones are early, we’re able to craft the most optimal campaign and track the right data on her client dashboard software.”
If you offer a service that clients outside of your industry may need support to understand, goal-related questions can also help you clarify your offering. According to freelance content marketer Ashley R. Cummings, “…the question I never fail to ask is, ‘what are your content marketing goals?’ This gives me insight into what the client wants to accomplish, how much they already know about content marketing, and helps me identify any gaps I can fill with my services.”
As you can see from Cummings’ advice, asking about goals also allows you to narrow your services when you work in a broad field like content marketing.
Even if you don’t ask a direct question about goals, like Growth Forte’s Daleep Chhabria, a discussion about goals will set your prospecting process on the right path. Chhabria begins every prospect conversation with goals for two reasons:
In other words, this topic streamlines the process for both parties. Established goals set expectations and let you know if your prospect will be a good fit for a client relationship.
If your prospect’s goal doesn’t have defined KPIs, look for ways to translate it into a SMART goal with measurable outcomes. Even if you only have time to begin quantifying their goal, you’ll show interest in their success and clarify what your prospect wants from you.
Many respondents also consider budget an important topic to cover in a prospect questionnaire.
“One of the most important questions we ask potential clients in our qualification phase is: ‘What budget have you allocated for this project?’” states Lori Newman of Newman Web Solutions.
Newman continues, “This is important to our agency because we are looking for clients who understand there is a budget investment in order to grow their business. This allows us to see if we are a good fit and if or what kind of services we can provide to them.” In other words, Newman wants to make sure that the prospect can dedicate enough money to reach the goals discussed in your initial goals question.
As Greenice’s Kateryna Reshetilo points out, budget questions also reveal if the client can invest in your project’s full scope. “We are a web development agency that specializes in custom web development. Not everyone can or has to afford the development of an app or website from scratch,” Reshetilo tells us.
It can seem intimidating to ask your prospect about their budget so soon, but it’s all part of the business. Reshetilo says, “At first, we were shy to ask this question, but later on, we’ve discovered that it is completely normal to ask how much money a prospect is allocating to the project. Most of the prospects give some numbers.”
Jesse Heredia of Ravecode Solutions brings up that asking this question will save everyone time, too. “We try to ask the money question as early as possible. This is because we respect our client’s time as well as our own,” Heredia says.
According to Heredia, the budget question saves time down the road: “If [the prospect doesn’t] feel comfortable with our MLE (minimum level of engagement) then we will not be a good fit. This way, we save our resources by avoiding spending more time on writing a proposal and additional meetings, and we will politely refer them to someone else.”
You can apply these sales’ professionals input by phrasing your budget questions around mutual success. Hubspot suggests framing the question as a way to figure out if you’re a good fit for the prospect instead of asking for a budget outright.
Your prospect’s priorities are just as important as their goals and budget. Chuck Coveleski from Infinity Sales Partners explains that you can gauge priorities through this question: “What’s the one thing that would change today to help you achieve your most immediate goal?”
For Coveleski, “This has always been a useful question to help clients understand what they know and what direction they want to move in that is both reasonable and expected for them. It helps ensure we can collaborate on a solution that is the right dosage for them and makes it easy to say yes.”
Coveleski also mentions that asking what a prospect would change will assist them with defining their priorities if they haven’t already. “It’s also important to have clients start to prioritize their needs. We work in tandem with our clients to narrow down their massive lists into tangible deliverables,” they conclude.
It’s crucial to remember that clients don’t always have a clear definition of their goals or priorities. After all, they came to you for expertise on your services, so it’s understandable if they don’t have every detail captured yet. This knowledge gap can serve as an opportunity to learn your prospect’s ability to collaborate and show them your competence in your field.
This question won’t appear in a specific space on your questionnaire, but you should always keep it at the ready.
For Max Whiteside from BarBend, the focus during client discovery isn’t the questions about goals or success. “I focus on the follow-up to those questions… ‘tell me more about that,’” Whiteside says. “This magical statement, in my experience, removes most of the resistance my clients have to sharing the root cause for bringing my team in.”
Whiteside counts on this follow-up question for better sales. “These five words — ‘tell me more about that’ — will shrink sales cycles and improve customer satisfaction because you will be addressing the real challenges facing their department or business,” they affirm.
“Tell me more about that” also came up when we asked sales professionals about their favorite questions to ask during prospecting calls. According to those respondents, asking this question gives the prospect room to talk and shows them that you care about their success.
The question “Why are you interested in our services?” lets potential clients explain their priorities and goals more clearly.
“The most important question we ask to qualify potential clients is asking why they reached out to us or why they are interested in our services,” Always Relevant Digital’s Josh Imhoff tells us. “Knowing the answer to this question helps us understand their needs and what goals they have for our relationship. This ultimately helps us understand their motivations and if our company will be able to help them reach their goals.”
It’s all about the phrasing. A prospect might not have a priority or goal defined in their head yet, but they do know why they need an outside service. The discussions that come from this question will help you unveil your potential client’s primary issues and goals to determine if you fit their needs.
Plenty of clients try to address a challenge themselves before opting for an outsourced solution. Then, they come across a block that encourages them to get outside help. Identifying this obstacle is key to meeting your client’s needs.
At BHMR, Martina Cooper likes to ask prospects “Why aren’t you at your goal yet?” Cooper usually sets this question up with previous questions about current and target revenue. With those numbers at the top of the prospect’s mind, Cooper looks for the gap between the two revenues.
“This question will help us understand some of their most important obstacles that we need to be while also putting them in a mindset where they’re more likely to agree to a solution for this problem,” they add.
As you might have noticed, the framing makes the question seem less confrontational and more empathetic.
Hubspot’s guide to rephrasing prospect questions covers a few questions related to this topic. For example, asking “Have you tried to solve this issue before?” could have better results than asking “Why haven’t you addressed this problem already?” If the prospect already tried to fix their issue with another solution, you’ll learn what became a dealbreaker for them.
When asking what your prospect wants from your services, don’t stop at goals — go deeper with their definition of success. Plenty of the sales professionals we consulted brought up this topic.
SEO consultant Asad Badat phrases the question like this: “Let’s say the campaign is a home run. What would that look like, either quantitatively or non-quantitatively, for your business? In other words, what is your end-goal yardstick for success?”
Badat doesn’t just ask what a good job looks like — they ask what a great job looks like.
This question sets expectations early and gives you an idea on what to include in your agency dashboard. “In many cases, clients misdiagnose themselves. For example, an ECommerce website needs more organic sales and approaches your agency with an RFQ for an SEO campaign. The client thinks they need more search traffic for more sales. But the reality is that their website is a CRO nightmare. Even if you do boost traffic from SEO, it’s nothing compared to the results you could get from working on conversion elements,” Badat explains.
At Mavens and Moguls, Paige Arnof-Fenn phrases the question a little differently: “If we work together, how will we know we’ve been successful?” According to Arnof-Fenn, this question also helps with setting expectations. They also add, “Our success is our clients’ success, so communicating clear goals builds a strong foundation of trust from the start and sets us up for a great outcome and positive experience.”
By working with your prospect to define success early, you’ll build a rapport with them that will serve you well if you choose to continue your business relationship. You can define goals and success for them separately or with the same question, but whatever your approach, set expectations early and show genuine interest in their results.
Clients want services that work as an extension of their business and goals. By asking what differentiates your prospect from their competition, you’ll start building that mindset.
Brain Stewart at ProsperoWeb, LLC asks this question because “Knowing our client’s unique selling proposition aids us in developing a product that stands out from the rest. To be successful in the busy, noisy, and competitive online world, companies must be genuinely extraordinary.”
In other words, it’ll help you tailor your services to your prospect’s value proposition and find ways to help them succeed. ProsperoWeb specializes in app development and digital marketing, but you can apply this principle to just about any service. This question will get you started investing in your client’s success.
Prospect questionnaires provide the opportunity to identify your competition and go one step ahead of them.
“We always ask potential clients which competitors they are considering working with,” Virtual Team Building’s Melissa Kelly says of prospect questionnaires.
For Kelly, this question is often the foundation for the rest of the discussion. “We’ve found that asking about which providers a client is considering provides a great anchor point for the conversation. For example, we can learn more about the client’s goals and also start a discussion on what makes our service different and better,” they say.
If you have a good grasp on your competition’s offerings, asking about competitors will provide a look into your client’s priorities and values. For example, if you work in content marketing and your prospect is considering a blog-focused agency, they might prefer long-form content over shorter options.
As Kelly pointed out, your prospect’s answer will also give you the chance to provide a soft sales pitch and address any concerns they might have about your services. Continuing the previous example, you might share samples of your blog work to show that you can also create high-performing long-form content.
Nothing can beat an example when you need to explain a concept. And, as we’ve learned so far, clear communication is a vital element of your conversation with your prospect.
“As a graphic designer and web designer, I have the luxury of asking clients to send me images or links that can give me a better idea of what ideas they have in their heads,” Jerome Williams from JWorks Studios tells us. “It’s a good practice because sometimes clients are not able to succinctly describe in emails or phone calls exactly what they have in mind.”
While this practice works best with more tangible deliverables like graphics and websites, it can also simplify prospect questionnaires for other industries. For example, if you run a digital marketing agency, your client might ask for a landing page but actually needs a blog post. When you ask for an example, they share a blog post, so you know to pivot your conversation.
Here’s another question for identifying your prospect’s priorities and goals.
At Digital Growth Hackers, Jonathan Aufray likes to ask, “What’s the most important pain point you’re facing?”
Aufray explains, “This is the question we use to qualify leads. If we understand what the prospect’s problem is and what they want to achieve, we will know whether we’re the right fit for their needs. Once we know their problem, we will know whether we have the solution for them.”
The right way to phrase this question will depend on your services and industry. Since Growth Hackers is a business-to-business (B2B) company, their clients understand what “pain point” means. But, if you work with less corporate clients, you might want to use the word “problem” instead.
One of the best ways to define your prospect’s expectations is to directly ask about them.
At Honest Marketing Zagreb, Filip Silobod makes sure to ask every potential client about the results they expect from the agency’s services. “Naturally, most people who hire an agency or SEO don’t have experience with it. So they often might have unrealistic expectations based on an article they read or a case study of enormous growth,” Silobod explains.
In SEO’s case specifically, it takes at least three to six months for results to show. So, if you have an SEO client who wants to rank in a month, you’ll need to temper their expectations or part ways. When you ask about expected results, you’ll get the chance to rein in your scope as needed.
Lily Ugbaja of Finding Balance asks a similar question to prospects — “What [results] do you have in mind?” According to Ugbaja, this question means, “…what do you expect from us? Can you give a picture of the final image you envision? What do you hope the outcome would achieve — drive more sales? Rank better on SEO?”
For Ugbaja, establishing these expectations enables better service. “This question is very important because it gives us an in-depth knowledge of what the client truly wants. That way, we can exceed their expectations and over-deliver without fumbling in the dark trying to do what we think the client wants as opposed to what they really want,” they explain.
You might feel tempted to dig into these kinds of details after you close the sale, but as you can see, it helps both sides of the partnership when you ask as part of your prospect questionnaire.PRO TIP: A SEO reporting tool like Databox can assist an SEO agency in effectively reporting progress to clients. By integrating with various data sources, Databox enables the agency to gather relevant SEO metrics and present them in customized dashboards or reports.
Some businesses provide services and show their clients how to perform certain tasks, making this question a must-ask for their salespeople.
Music-Mindset’s Maurice Hissink always asks clients if they want services performed or if they want to learn how to handle the task themselves. “Some clients want to learn how to do things themselves (setting up ads, creating better videos) so guidance is needed. Other clients just want results and have the work done for them,” Hissink explains.
In fields like marketing, businesses outsource for a variety of reasons, making it crucial to ask this question. When we asked business professionals why they hired a marketing agency, many mentioned getting more time to run their businesses. But, plenty of the respondents cited reasons related to self-sufficiency, such as getting measurable results or adopting new trends.
When you’re entering a new business relationship, you’ll want to know all of the people involved.
At Nash Content Consulting, Brooklin Nash wants to know how their team will contribute to the prospect’s team. “I ask every prospective client what their current team looks like — including full-time marketers, freelancers and agencies. I prefer to work with clients who treat the contract as a partnership, and asking this typically gives me a good sense of how I’ll fit in with the bigger picture,” Nash tells us.
Borealis Digital Marketing’s Kevin Kohlert encourages you to identify one of the most important people in the business relationship — the decision-maker.
“It’s important to ask whether you’ll be interfacing with the decision-maker directly,” Kohlert explains. “Whenever I’ve taken on a project where requests have to go through a multi-layer approval process, it’s been cumbersome and inefficient. Communication is paramount for success, so it’s important to communicate directly with someone capable of making high-level decisions at their company.”
If you offer B2B services, you’re just one piece of the puzzle for your clients. Learning what to expect from your client interactions in advance will enable you to determine if you’re a good fit and how you can do your best work.
There aren’t necessarily “wrong” questions to add to your client questionnaire. Instead, there are less optimal ways to ask questions.
We’ve touched on this point a bit while discussing good questions to ask. Two different questions might ask the same thing, but one will perform better than the other because of the way it comes across to your prospect.
At Harvard Business Review, business consultant Scott Edinger has three tips for asking your prospects better questions:
You have plenty of methods for distributing your client prospect questionnaire, including:
When we polled sales and marketing professionals about improving funnel conversions, they advised readers to keep forms and CTAs simple. The same principle applies to your client prospect questionnaires — whatever format you choose, make sure you make it easy for your client to answer your questions.
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