I recently wrote an article called, Feeble Questions Can Kill Your Business that was featured in a prominent industry-specific magazine. In the article, I stated that too many sales people get caught in the trap of asking low-quality questions instead of more powerful ones. Many people contacted me and requested more information on what constitutes a great question. This blog posting will address that issue.
First, the reason it is important to ask questions is to gain a thorough understanding of each customer’s situation including their needs, wants, desired results, decision-making process as well as potential concerns and roadblocks. Most salespeople understand this—at least at a fundamental level. In virtually every sales training workshop I conduct, participants nod when we discuss the importance of asking questions early in the sales process. However, in real life, they often skip through this stage in order to present their product, or discuss a solution. It’s only when the customer raises an objection, that many sales people backtrack and ask questions. Unfortunately, they have the process backward.
Powerful questions can help you demonstrate your expertise. Powerful questions demonstrate that you are not an average person selling a product, service or solution. And powerful questions help you determine the best way to present your solution. So what constitutes a powerful question?
Powerful questions are designed to make your customer think. The majority of salespeople I encounter are hesitant about asking deep, thought-provoking questions because they are afraid that their prospect will find them invasive. However, the higher up in an organization you sell, the more important it is to ask these types of questions simply because executives are used to asking—and answering—tough questions. In fact, if you sell to senior level executives, it is essential to ask high-level questions. Here are a few examples;
- What goals are you striving to achieve this quarter?
- How do those targets compare to last year’s results?
- What, if anything, is preventing you from achieving these goals?
- We’ve noticed several trends occurring in the industry lately. The two that stand out the most are… How are these affecting you and your business?
- When I was doing some research, I noticed on your website that your company is… What progress are you making on that initiative?
- What is the ideal outcome you would like to see or experience?
- How does this compare with your current results?
- You mentioned that you want to improve employee morale with this initiative. Can you tell me what that looks like?
- You have stated that increasing market awareness is one of your primary objectives. How will you know that you have succeeded?
- How does this project rank in priority compared to the others you are working on?
- Walk me through the process you follow when you consider decisions of this nature?
- Who else do you normally consult with on decisions like this?
- What potential roadblocks might prevent you from moving ahead with this?
- What concerns, if any, do you have about moving forward?