This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on

If you’re marketing to a business, you know how hard it can be to close a new sale – It’s like pulling teeth trying to get five minutes on the phone. And, if you’re lucky enough to get an in-person meeting, even better!

Why is it so tough?

It might be time constraints, since everyone is so busy. It could be budgets, because the person you’re selling to probably has to be careful about how much he’s spending, and on what.

But the most important thing you need to know about your prospects is this: What are they really looking to accomplish by talking to you?

Understanding the needs of your prospects is paramount to a cool close. After more than 20 years in the sales and marketing trenches, I’ve come up with three essential questions that any person who’s in a position to sell something – which everyone at a company should be, no matter what their job title – should ask their prospects.

1. What does your business do?

Knowing what your prospects do and what their needs are lets you tailor your pitch. Restaurants are far more picky about budgets than software companies because their margins aren’t as big. A prospect in education might have more seasonal needs. Government prospects might make you jump through hoops in order to close the sale. Don’t have a one-trick pony pitch for anyone and everyone. Tell the story that’s going to work for each individual prospect.

2. Are you using a product or service like ours now? What do you like and not like about it?

This gives you insight as to whether the prospect even knows what it is you sell. If they haven’t purchased a product like yours before, don’t really know what you do, or why they need you, they may need more of a sales pitch on your industry rather than what your company does specifically. Then, get into what problems your business can solve for them.

3. When would you be looking to make a change or buy this product?

This question tells you what a prospect’s motivation might be. It might be that their boss is telling them to look into the product more. It might be that they’ll lose budget if they don’t spend it now. Or, it might be that they’re tired of not having a solution to a problem and your solution will save them time, effort and money.

Getting clarity on your prospect’s situation with just a few easy questions will get you on the road to ABC: Always Be Closing!

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