Why are good questions important?
Effective selling is the art of establishing dialogue. In the vast majority of cases, sales success begins with the ability to ask good questions and then listen to the answers.
Fig. 25, Getting Information section, collapsed
We have defined eight of the most important reasons why.
- Good questioning allows you to clearly identify and qualify, early in the selling process, the individual people you deal with and also their companies.
- Good questioning helps you to understand the current customer situation.
- Good questioning at the outset of a sales call helps to establish the rapport that is so helpful in fostering fluid communication between buyer and seller.
- Good questioning lets you determine where you do, and do not, understand the decision-making process of a given customer.
- Good questioning enables you to identify significant differences between your own capabilities and those of your competition.
- Good questioning can reinforce your credibility with a customer by demonstrating to them that you are in fact interested in their needs and opinions, not just in pushing your product.
Good questioning can motivate and sustain your customer's interest, stimulate their thinking, and modify their attitudes and concepts regarding you and your product or service.
The questioning process begins with identifying those areas of the sale where you are currently lacking information. When thinking of these questions, keep your Single Sales Objective in mind.
Here are six sequential questions that will help you identify what may be missing.
- Do I need information about the customers involved?
- Do I need information about the customer's Concept?
- Do I need information about the account's buying process?
- Do I need information about possible new players?
- Do I need information about the competition?
- Do I need information about my uncertainties or worries?
To assist in defining these questions, we suggest using the following three guidelines for your criteria:
Elicit the information you need.
Phrase in an effective manner.
Present in an appropriate sequence
Fig. 25a, Confirmation question selection and key words
Fig. 25b, New Information question selection and key words
Fig. 25c, Attitude question selection and key words
Click on the Add icon to open the section. Designate the item as either a Confirmation item, New Information or Attitude question via the single select buttons, and then type your text directly into the input field.
Suggested Items for Getting Information
If the Repository Icon is available, then Suggested items for Getting Information exist. Instead of clicking on the Add icon, click on the Suggested Icon to open the Suggested Items list. Click the plus to check one or more items in the list, then click "Done" to add the selected items to the Getting Information section.
Fig. 25d, Attitude question selection and key words
Confirmation Questions validate your data or reveal inaccuracies in what you thought was true. They have a dual purpose; to help you identify information you already have or think you have, and they help you discern discrepancies in it. It's important to be current with regard to:
- your customer's Concept
- business issues that may have arisen since your last meeting
- any possible changes in organizational structure
Remember the focus of Confirmation Questions is always on the current situation.
Always phrase your Confirmation Questions in the present tense.
Use key words that signal the customer you are asking for information about the present. Key words are located right in the Getting Information dialog box to assist you in creation of your Confirmation Questions.
Keep in mind that confirmation Questions should be answerable with a simply "Yes" or "No" response. They are not open ended questions, but closed.
If you are having problems phrasing your question, shift to a statement-question combination by first making a statement that you believe to be true in the past, and then ask is this still the case.
When to Use Confirmation Questions
- In a way to emphasize the value of Confirmation Questions early in the sales call, we suggest that you open the sales call by asking this type of question. One good way of doing this is to verify the purpose of the meeting as you understand it in the form of a Confirmation Question.
- You should use Confirmation Questions immediately before presenting the customer with any new product or service data. This will maximize the chances that a possible fit actually exists between the product or service you're going to describe and the real needs of the customer as she understands them.
- They are also valuable when you are building a foundation for moving the sale forward. As you get closer to taking a customer's order, two things happen: Your confidence begins to rise, and your vulnerability also rises because you're becoming more confident.
New Information Questions
These questions follow up and build on New Information by asking for more clarification. The purpose of New Information Questions is threefold:
- To clarify your understanding of what your customer is trying to accomplish, fix, or avoid
- To update your information
- To resolve your information discrepancies by filling in the gaps.
When formulating your new questions, the focus is on the key words of who, what, when, where, and how or "how much" or "how many". These are called explicit questions since they ask the customer to provide very specific new information. Exploratory questions invite the customer to explore at his or her own level of detail. They begin with key words like tell, explain, demonstrate and show. These questions seek further information, but they do so in a more open, expansive manner. If an individual is resistant to the question, we suggest using a technique that makes exploratory New Information Questions sound less confrontational. Basically, the perceived aggressiveness of a question by phrasing it indirectly or by employing such structures as "I'd like to..." or "I'd appreciate it if you would..." or simply "Could you...?". When working with a customer that is sensitive to being told to do something, you may get better results asking in an indirect versus a direct manner.
When to Use New Information Questions
- When encouraging a customer to explore his/her Concept openly.
- In response to an unexpected "NO" answer to a Confirmation Question.
- When information is missing or unclear.
Attitude Questions focus on how he/she personally feels about those results. The purpose of an Attitude Question is to get the customer to reveal personal information about how they, individually, will win or lose in this sale. Such questions seek to discover the individual customer's values and attitudes, which are so important in determining Concept.
- To uncover individual needs, desires, concerns, and feelings.
- To discover unidentified issues.
- To understand attitudes and values.
Since Attitude Questions are focuses around the personal values and attitudes of the Buying Influence, these questions typically use key words such as what, which, why and how in conjunction with phrasing that encourages a judgement, or in other words, probe for a value judgement. When using "why", be cautious because you are seeking a person's judgement, not challenging or questioning it.
When to Use Attitude Questions
- To understand the customer's feelings.
- To get the customer's perspective on the feelings of others involved.
- To understand the real issues.
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