Ever since Socrates devised his famous method of education and self-enlightenment, questions have been used to stimulate thought and action. However, not all questions lead to appropriate thoughts and actions or to positive constructive outcomes. Some questions can be used to build others up by bringing out their true feelings and by helping them truly understand themselves better. Some questions can be used to tear others down through insidious insinuations regarding their worthiness and value as human beings.
When it comes to any sales process, the right questions at the right time are paramount in establishing and maintaining high closing ratios and profitability. Such questions must elicit the appropriate thoughts and resulting actions that are favorable to you but especially to your customer. Your questions must involve, engage and encourage customers to incorporate your products/services into the context of their own personal stories, i. e. , the way they see themselves and the way they live their lives.
The following types of questions (which are in no particular order) will help you build the value to your customers of what you offer by making it an integral part of the way they view and conduct their lives. Note that they are centered in two areas:
In all cases, the purpose of using appropriate questions is to establish and develop the common bond of humanity and an appreciation by both parties of the value and benefits of the unfolding relationship. When a question is honestly and sincerely asked it will tend to be answered in the same manner. Once the relationship is established all subsequent questions should nurture it in the same way. The results will be not just a sale but long-term healthy partnerships with delighted customers.
1. Questions to stimulate thought that leads to appropriate action for the benefit of the customer’s future
2. Questions to qualify for suitability and desirability
3. Questions to uncover true needs and wants
4. Questions to uncover real feelings about the product/service
5. Questions to uncover real feelings about the company you represent
6. Questions to uncover real feelings about the moment and what is happening right now in the sales process
7. Questions to uncover personal hopes, dreams and aspirations for both the near term and the long term
8. Questions to discover existing problems with similar products/services and competitive businesses
9. Questions to uncover past experiences that impact current attitude toward the product/service and company
10. Questions that add value to the customer’s self-image and elicit good feelings about themselves and the questioner
11. Questions to discover Prime Buying Motives (Hot Buttons)
12. Questions to discover values and beliefs
13. Questions to reveal bad or non-existent processes and/or difficulties that are causing pain and/or dissatisfaction
14. Questions to bring awareness of a better way of doing business or living life
15. Questions that are easy to answer and that will make the customer “right" when answering
16. Questions that gain commitment
17. Questions to help you better understand your customers and their personal and business situations
18. Questions that disclose something about yourself and your own story
19. Questions that demonstrate your personal and your company’s commitment to follow-through and follow-up
20. Questions that demonstrate your personal depth of knowledge of your products/services and the customer’s industry and business
21. Questions that honor the customer’s knowledge and experience
22. Questions that anticipate common objections
23. Questions to check for understanding
24. Questions to check for agreement or disagreement
25. Questions that uncover hidden doubts and fears, especially if they involve your customer’s association with your organization
26. Questions that proactively answer the question that every customer has, whether they verbally ask it or not, ‘What’s in it for me to do business with you?’
It is important that you arrange the timing and pacing of these types of questions to suit the specific situations of your customers and the particular sequence of your sales process steps. Without sounding like a robot or a cue card reader ask as many questions as you can in order to obtain as much information and “emotional awareness" of the customer as possible. The more you inquire without prying, the more you’ll inspire without ‘dying’ (or, as many customers might want to suggest, ‘lying’). What you’ll be inspiring is the customer’s desire to be engaged with you in developing a solid and satisfying relationship that meets both your and their physical and emotional needs well into the future.
Ken Wallace, M. Div. , CSL has been in the organizational development field since 1973. He is a seasoned consultant, speaker and executive coach with extensive business experience in multiple industries who provides practical organizational direction and support for business leaders. A professional member of the National Speakers Association since 1989, he is also a member of the International Federation for Professional Speaking and holds the Certified Seminar Leader (CSL) professional designation awarded by the American Seminar Leaders Association.
Ken is one of only eight certified Business Systems Coaches worldwide for General Motors.
His topics include ethics, leadership, change, communication & his unique Optimal Process Design® program.
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