Mike Schultz in The RAIN Group Sales Blog has published an intriguing and useful list of 21 open ended questions designed to allow sales reps to discover insights through various stages of the selling process. These are grouped into the sales training organization’s categories:
- Aspirations and Afflictions
- New Reality
Here are the six questions in the “Aspirations” category:
- Why isn’t this particular technology/service/product/situation/issue working for you right now?
- Many of our clients are reporting problems with areas A, B, and C. How are these areas affecting you? What do you think about them?
- What’s holding you back from reaching your revenue (or profit, or other) goals?
- What goals and objectives do you have in general? For this area?
- (Assuming they set the meeting) Why did you ask me to talk with you today?
- (Assuming you set the meeting) As I mentioned earlier, I’d like to share with you a few ideas that have helped our clients succeed in the X,Y, and Z areas. Before we get going, by the time we’re done with this meeting, what else might you like to cover? What will make the meeting successful for you?
Note how these questions are designed to allow you to shut up and listen, and with the answers, gain deeper insights into the prospective client.
There’s some good advice with these questions. (You can read the entire list and the advice here).
- You shouldn’t script these questions; put them in your own words, ask them naturally.
- If you get a short answer to an open-ended question, you can sometimes get the client to to expand further by asking, “how so?” Or, “can you tell me a little more about that?”
You’ll be surprised at just how much you can learn, and the difference it will make in your ability to help them succeed. ‘
- There’s also advice not to over-do the open ended questions:
Also, sometimes all you need is to ask one question and your prospect will share with you all the information you need to help them. Other times you may need to ask a few, but make sure you don’t overdo it. You don’t want to make your prospect feel as if he is on the witness stand. While this article is about asking questions, don’t forget that the most powerful sales conversations tend to balance inquiry (asking questions) with advocacy (talking, educating, giving advice).
I think there’s gold in this advice. Consider how you can apply these questions in your future sales calls.