This post, originally titled "20 Questions to Ask Your B2B Leads, Prospects and Customers," was written by John McTigue in May of 2012. It has been so popular and valuable to our readers that we've updated it to reflect the current sales and marketing environment.
Gathering the right information from your website visitors can turn them into customers. However, they may or may not volunteer critical information during the buy cycle, and they certainly won't offer any more than they need to. So, it's up to us marketers to craft our lead generation, lead nurturing and sales processes to effectively qualify our leads and develop them into prospects and customers.
It boils down to asking the right questions at the right time. Here is how to determine which sales profiling questions to ask and at what time.
Asking the same questions to every person who fills out a form on your website is not OK. The key to moving the most leads through the sales funnel is segmentation. Identifying your website's visitors allows you to nurture them and reach out to them at the appropriate stage of the buy cycle. Every person on your websites fits into one of the following life cycle stages:
Visitors: Visitors can get to your site from a variety of sources, such as external websites that link to your site, social media, email marketing or more. One goal as marketers is to figure out who our visitors are. We can determine this by offering relevant gated content in exchange for answering a few surface-level questions.
Leads: There are three stages of leads: top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel. Each lead should be treated differently based on their funnel stage. Top of the funnel leads should be asked less questions (and less invasive questions) than bottom of the funnel leads. By the time someone gets to the bottom of the funnel, you should know as much as you can about them. Hopefully, you have built up enough trust that you can ask things like their job title and current marketing strategy without scaring them away.
Customers: Once you have people on your site reading and engaging with your content, the goal is, of course, for them to buy from you and become a customer. Stop scaring away potential leads by asking too many or wrong questions in your preliminary forms and you will have more customers than ever before.
Promoters: Often forgotten, promoters are an important life cycle stage because they do your job for you. They often even do it better than you. Think about it. If your friend told you about an amazing new product, wouldn't you be more inclined to try it than if you just saw an ad for it? Keep in touch with your customers even after they purchase from you by asking them what they like about your product and how you can improve. You never know when you will be able to upsell them or they will send a new customer your way.
Once you have your life cycle stages ironed out, it is time to start segmenting. Segmenting your leads by buyer persona and by lifecycle stage is always a good place to start. Qualify and score your leads for sales readiness and prioritization.
When you segment your leads, you can provide your sales reps with vital information to assist in the sales process. You can also structure your whole marketing strategy around these segments. For example:
Remember that today's customer doesn't want to be pushed and prodded before they are ready to buy. You want your questioning strategy to not be too hard, not be too soft, but to be just right. The trick here is to gather information gradually and keep updating your records with new information until your profile is complete. Think about staging your questions in line with your buyer behavior and lifecycle stage.
You can do that by slowly introducing more questions in your lead capture forms as your leads make their way through your lead nurturing content and consume content you've targeted for top, middle and bottom of the funnel stages.
Find out which questions to ask at each life cycle stage in our free eBook, Top Sales Profiling Questions to Guide Visitors into Lifetime Customers, and ensure you aren't scaring away any valuable leads.