The Consultative Sell

Ask Questions to Learn About Your Prospects’ Wants and Needs

It is easy to fall into the trap of pitching your product rather than engaging in a meaningful dialogue with your prospect. Asking good questions is the best way to learn more about your prospect’s needs and desires while, at the same time, building rapport.

Rather than being viewed as “just another salesperson”, become a valued advisor! This technique is referred to as consultative based selling.

It is also a great start to keeping yourself in the driver’s seat and controlling the direction of the discussion. Your goal is to find your prospects’ pain points; find where they need the help and tie it all together by repeating what it is they, themselves, have admitted they need. This is also called “solutions based” selling.

It would be easy if there was one right set of questions to ask that would always lead to the responses that we want. The best approach is to create a mix of open-ended questions that get your prospect talking, along with questions that easily yield a “yes” response. “Yes” response questions create the opportunity for positive responses while helping you to get the information you require as the salesperson.

Your open-ended questions are “fact finding” questions that allow the conversation to progress into the inevitable “solution” of what your company can offer, which then, of course, leads to the appointment.

Some of my favorites are:
~Tell me how you’re currently handling that right now.
~What do you like about how that relationship is going?
~What kind of improvements would you like to make?

Here are some other tips for questions around your prospecting calls.
• Try to ask questions that the prospect can answer without thinking too hard (It’s important not to stop the conversation).
• Don’t ask questions too early that are seen as intrusive (like questions around their budget).
• Make sure that your prospect is an active participant in the dialogue. Ever get those sales calls where the salesman is doing all the talking? You’re ready to hang up after the first 20 seconds and barely paying attention anyway, right?
• In that same vain, avoid run-on sentences or one-way conversations that alienate the prospect. Talking too much about you and your company is one example. As the valued advisor, are trying to find out about your prospect, not spend a lot of time telling him about how large your company is, how many years you’ve been in business, etc.
• Speak in snippets because attention spans are short-lived. You’ve got less than 30 seconds for your compelling message. People like to talk (if given the opportunity) and they will verbalize what they think they need without being pressed.

Let’s not forget to collect information from the screener, Executive Assistant and other colleagues. Asking useful, fact-finding questions to those you speak to on the way to the decision maker offers invaluable information to not only better prepare you, but to show credibility, that you’ve done “research”. You turn a cold call into a warm call when you utilize colleagues around the decision maker to provide insight.

At the most basic level, the questions you ask the screener are designed to qualify that the decision maker has authority. Another question might be, “Do you know who you guys currently use for _____?”
Throughout your fact finding questions you should do a lot of listening. Your goal is not just to set an appointment, but to plant the seeds along the conversation that gets your prospect to become more and more tied to using you for their solution.