Successful salespeople know how to have a real conversation. It’s not just empty give and take. Salespeople that have the tendency to push to close too early in the sales process (and push their prospect away because of it) aren’t effective at getting to the meat of a conversation. If you want to know what keeps your prospects up at night and how you can help them, you need to give yourself an opportunity to really understand what he or she is saying.
This understanding comes through the questions you ask. There are three types of questions you can ask.
The Three Types of Questions Used In a Sales Conversation
Closed-ended questions are those that yield a one word answer. “How are things?” “Good.” Very informative!
Open-ended questions go a bit farther and yield a longer answer; “What have you been working on?” “Not falling asleep.” Okay, that’s a start.
Impact questions go all the way. These are questions that ask someone to actually think. For example, “Given what you just said, how will you change the way you approach that next time?” This question isn’t easily answered – it takes time and thought before responding. “Hmmm…let me think.” Now we’re talking. Real substance can come out of this conversation.
We move beyond transactional conversation to a deeper level that causes both you and I to think deeply about an issue because the question has impact. You communicate with influence when you ask impact questions at the right time.
Why Impact Questions Are King
I guarantee you have asked tons of impact questions in your sales career (I know the exact moment I learned to ask better questions, as a salesperson early in my career.) You know you have, because you get the “Good question…let me think about that” response. This is almost always good. It means you have honored your partner in conversation enough to think about and ask an impact question. And you have offered that person the chance to really think something through.
Impact questions also help you, as a salesperson, to identify true need. Your prospect may think that he or she knows exactly what she wants to buy, but if you ask an impact question that makes her think about her business’ broader challenges, you could uncover a larger opportunity. If you ask the right questions, you’ll be able to educate her on how your solution can take her business from status quo to the future that she envisions.
There’s nothing wrong with closed and open-ended questions, but they function more like transactions than relationships. What they are best-suited for is breaking up the flow of your impact questions. After all, if you ask TOO many impact questions, you can easily exhaust and annoy your conversation partner.
Next time you are walking into a meeting or a social situation, take a pause and ask your prospect a question that makes a true impact in the overall conversation.
Here are 10 impact questions worth asking of every one of your prospects:
- What would happen if you/company stayed at status quo?
- If you could focus more resources on one problem your company is facing, what would it be?
- When you think about Company X 5 years from now, what do you envision?
- What is the smallest action you could take today to have the biggest impact?
- Why isn’t your current provider/vendor working for you right now?
- What’s holding you back from reaching your goals?
- If you were able to make this happen, what would it mean for you personally?
- If you don’t solve this challenge now, what difficulties wiill you face going forward?
- What does success look like for you?
- What does failure look like for you?
- The Art of Conversation: A Saleperson’s Guide to Conducting Sales Conversation
- My First Job and The Power of Asking the Right Questions
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