Photo credit: Matt McGee
-“How was your sales meeting?”
-“Very well. They said they were interested to know more”, says the sales manager. “And we’ve agreed the next step”.
-“Great, and what after that?”
I assume this isn’t a situation you ever faced but, more often than not, “the next step” is deemed to be a good outcome from a sales meeting or any meeting for that purpose. I actually believe there is a better way than next steps. Can you imagine knowing all that is needed to get to a close? Or even to the realisation that what you sell isn’t relevant to a prospect and therefore it is not worth invest more time into this specific prospect (or a demo for that matter). Yes, all. Everything. Alles. Absolument tout. Todo.
Voltaire once famously said “Judge a man by his questions, not the answers he gives”. It might very well be another apocryphal (he also never said: “I disagree with what you said but will fight for you to have the right to say it“) but, in the sales context, it is a very true statement. If I were to paraphrase the great Voltaire, I would say: “Judge a sales profession by his sales questions, not the answer he gives”. The more one ask, the more he understand what the prospect is about, his problem, his decision process and so on. So for that, in sales, we need to ask questions and they better be good.
Here are three very specific sales questions I ask which I do find potent. Again, there are many more that one need to ask and they naturally need to be adapted to the situation. You can find a good list here for instance. But here goes:
1- “In the past, what have you taken into consideration to make such a decision?”. What I am trying to understand here is the whole range of variables that the prospect look into to make a decision. The objective is not to throw data points which are irrelevant (for instance how a similar company is using the service sold) but to understand the issue of the prospect from his very own perspective. As a caveat, the prospect doesn’t alway share all the variables but it helps going down the discovery path for the entire process rather than doing “next steps”.
2- “Who else do you usually involve when making this type of decision” or, another version: “Should we move forward, who is affected by the decision to do so“. Here again, this sales question aim is to avoid the “next steps” and understanding who is involved in the process so to bring this or these people as early as possible. For instance, there might be a financial director that the prospect knows has proven a hurdle in the past. I find that bringing this person right from the starts helps me to make sure I invest time efficiently and don’t discover new perspective (some call these “objection”) much later on
3- “What have you tried in the past?”. If the issue at hand is an issue that the prospect has faced for awhile, then I find it useful to understand what she or he has done to address it. Again, a great way to learn insights on how big this problem is. If the prospect claims it’s a big problem but tells me she hasn’t tried anything to address it, some alarms bells are going. Is it really that big a problem?
There are numerous questions to ask and the objective is to discover the situation as the prospect is facing, and to understand it as she sees it. What are the sales questions you do ask?