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How to ask questions to sell? It may seem like a quite simple process, but far from it, the art of asking questions to sell is complex and requires a series of skills and techniques.
«If I had one hour to solve a problem, and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the appropriate question, because once I knew the right question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes» – Albert Einstein.
Some time ago we talked in our blog about the BANT method, whose objective is to qualify leads based on the following criteria:
To find out if a potential customer is really interested in the opportunity that is being presented, we must ask a series of questions that can either be binary, that is, those whose only answer options are Yes or No, or they can be adaptive, those that do not limit the person to whom the question is asked.
In this context, we must ask ourselves whether the way a question is asked determines the type of answer that is given.
What questions should I ask?
Or in other words, what makes a good question? According to the authors of The art of powerful questions, a powerful question:
- Generates curiosity in the listener.
- Stimulates thoughtful conversation.
- Brings underlying assumptions to the surface.
- Invites creativity and new possibilities.
- Generates energy and forward movement.
- Touches deep meaning.
- Evokes further questions.
- This list would not include binary questions, as they limit us to choosing one position or the other, black or white, without taking into account that there is a whole scale of greys or even a colour wheel.
Binary questions vs. adaptive questions
As famed CEO coach Dave Bailey explains, adaptive questions encourage a growth mindset. Rather than focusing on Yes or No, they allow us to focus the question on where we want to get to and reflect on the effort it will take to get there. The idea is to propose a more creative search for answers and solutions, rather than relying so much on guided responses with limited options.
For the BANT method to be effective, we must ask the right questions at the right time. Even if a prospect does not score high on the scale, the business process can still lead to a purchase if the right questions are asked.
For this purpose, we propose the following examples for internal reflection, transforming binary questions into adaptive ones:
- Binary: Does this person have sufficient budget?
- Adaptive: What is the prospect’s budget and what can this person do to achieve it in order to reach his or her goal?
- Binary: Does this person have the authority to make decisions?
- Adaptive: What can this person do to be influential in terms of this project?
- Binary: Does the prospect need the product?
- Adaptive: What is the prospect’s business need?
- Binary: Can he/she buy it now or does he/she want to buy it now?
- Adaptive: In what time frame will this person implement the solution to their business need?
Once we have internalised the correct way to formulate our questions, it is time to think about the actual questions we will ask our prospects:
Instead of directly asking «What is your budget?», some alternatives:
- What is the budget you would allocate to this solution?
- How much would you be willing to spend on similar products/services?
- How much are you currently spending on other solutions?
If you were a car salesman, the first thing you would do when someone walked into your dealership would be to ask about their budget, right? Because you wouldn’t try to sell a Jaguar to someone who has the budget to buy a Honda.
Instead of asking «Who makes the decisions in your company?», some alternatives:
- What is your contribution to the decision process?
- Which people in your team will use our product/service/solution?
- What are the top priorities when evaluating solutions?
- Do you think we should invite someone else to the meeting/convention?
Instead of focusing only on the decision-maker, it will also be useful to ask about the end-users, as they might influence the process.
Instead of asking «Do you need the product/service», some alternatives:
- What are the main challenges, pain points and problems you are currently facing that you are anxious to solve?
- How much does this problem bother you on a scale of 1 to 10?
- What kind of solutions are you currently evaluating and how do you think it will benefit your organisation?
You are not selling, you are solving problems. But if you are wasting time explaining your service or product to a customer who doesn’t really need it, this will not be positive for either party.
Instead of asking «When do you want to purchase the product/service?», some alternatives:
- Do you have a time frame to start the project?
- What kind of time limitations are you working under?
- How long have you been looking for a solution?
These questions will only be effective and positive if we do not forget one of the basic principles, listening. It is essential to avoid our potential client feeling questioned, as well as to create a real atmosphere of trust. By listening and observing your clients reactions you will see if they are receptive and willing to communicate or if, on the other hand, you start to annoy them and go too far. At HelloMrLead we have an article on our blog where we talk about it and give you 9 tips to get it right.
Choosing the CTA
What if you don’t get the chance to talk in person? These days a lot of communication is carried out online, either by email or via LinkedIn. Which is why we move on to talk about the Call To Action (CTA). This is to request the immediate action of the interlocutors or visitors of a particular website through text, button or link, using words that create a sense of urgency. In this way, our CTA will be effective and we will turn potential customers into final customers. At this point, we must also be careful when choosing the words or phrases we are going to use.
The brevity and frankness of a well-written call to action will put the focus on what is important and eliminate any distractions. And, while we must ensure that our CTA is concise, we can use either two simple words or several sentences.
Depending on the platform we use, the call to action can vary a lot. However, the best way to become good at something is to learn from others, so we leave you with the following examples of CTAs for email and LinkedIn:
- Would you like to know more?
- If you give me your email address I can send you a presentation, is that OK?
- How about scheduling a 10-minute call so I can tell you more?
- If you’re interested I could explain more in a short call, is next Tuesday OK for you?
- We have a lot more to tell you, are you interested in our service?
And speaking of the devil, here we have our CTA: Did you find this post useful? If you want to continue learning different techniques or you want more information, do not hesitate to continue browsing our blog or even, if you prefer, get in touch with us through the web so you can get the attention of your customers and potential customers and you can transmit them all your potential.
We leave here other sources used (in addition to those already mentioned) for the writing of this article: