Questions are the answer” — Allan Pearse
As simple as that phrase is, it has changed my whole perspective on the value and benefit of great questions in sales. As a key account manager, and one who coaches sales professionals, asking questions is a critical skill. It helps clients discover new solutions and challenges sales professionals to change those behaviours that aren’t effective.
One of the practices I want to challenge are the questions we ask in sales. The archetypal questions of who, where, what, how or closed and open are peppered throughout our trainings and education. These trainings are great for telling you what types of questions you could ask. However, they give no guidance in knowing how you develop questions that get you answers that matter.
As sales professionals we can be so caught up in asking questions that we never ask ourselves, “Do we know the reason why? What’s the purpose?” It’s this answer that should shape the direction of our questions.
What is that one thing that you really want to know? Why? And does it help you and the other person achieve a goal?
Of course there are a whole host of reasons you might need to ask questions to your clients and colleagues.
- To understand what specific pressures your colleagues or contacts are under in a new role
- To understand the impact changes in your clients industry might have on their business
- To understand the impact of a key person leaving the business
- To understand the shift in priority of their business
All of these are helpful reasons to ask questions
I’d like to propose that the number 1 reason for questions is to CLARIFY.
I’ve become fascinated with questions. Indulge me for a moment :)
Questions are like a bridge that connects knowns and unknowns, decisions and non-decisions and actions and non-actions.
The questions we ask are our opportunity to ensure we’re moving in the right direction with our client. It leads us to answers that help us know if we need to act now, pivot, get rid of something, solve something ….you get the picture.
Once you understand the purpose of your questions you can then be more intentional with what you ask. You can walk away from the conversation with every piece of information needed, knowing what to do and what not to do.
Here is the one question you need to consider before asking your next questions to clients or colleagues.
- Does this question help me solve, support, shape or sell something to my client?
- Solve a client’s recognised need?
- Support a specific initiative already ongoing with your client?
- Shape or clarify a new project, offer additional insight or challenge?
Sell position additional services that may benefit my client that they haven’t already purchased?
All of these questions are fine in their own right. But they should always be asked with the intent to deliver value and benefit to client.
Solve – What were your thoughts on the development needs that came out of the last training session?
Support – How best can I support you in the change your department is facing?
Shape – How would you see us using our expertise to help you achieve that important goal for 2016?
Sell – Had you considered what you’d do to ensure your data was fully secure?
As simple as these questions are, when you apply this framework of thinking to the planned conversations you have, you will become a master at asking questions. And you will be known as an insight bringer and a person of value in your client’s world.
Let me know how you get on.
All the best