This article provides seven powerful sales questions along with the reasons why you should ask them. These questions can help you expand customer needs, shift your prospect’s focus from price to value and improve your understanding of the buyer’s thinking.
The questions you ask your prospects are more important than anything you say. Here are seven powerful sales questions to help you win every deal.
“In addition to price, what other factors will you consider important?”
Many customers are price-focused because using price is the fastest and easiest way to compare options. When you ask this powerful sales question it quickly re-focuses the customer on other important priorities besides price.
“Other than this issue, what else would you like to see improved?”
A prospect typically agrees to meet with you because they recognize they have a need that your company may be able to solve. Obviously, you want to probe that explicit need thoroughly. But then what should you do? Most salespeople will default to “pitch mode,” and start telling the customer how our solution will fulfill their needs.
Trouble is, just meeting customer needs doesn’t differentiate you.
After a prospect tells you about one problem they have, probe for another. This is important because the customer may already understand their first need. The first need may have been identified by your competitor, and the best way to beat competition is to identify a need your competitor(s) missed.
“I’d be happy to tell you about our capabilities. May I ask you a few questions first so I can determine which of our capabilities will solve your problems?”
When a prospect initiates contact with a salesperson, they typically ask you questions about your product, support and price. When this occurs, it’s important for salespeople to understand that a significant portion of the buying process has already occurred. But just because a customer thinks they identified their own needs does not mean that the customer completed a thorough needs analysis.
Given that today as much as 60% of the buying process is complete before a customer contacts a salesperson, this powerful sales question is designed to get your prospect to back up to the earlier phases of their buying process, and re-examine their needs with you. This question, “May I ask you a few questions first so I can determine which of our capabilities will solve your problems?” helps you make that transition more smoothly.
“Other clients have told us they have a problem with X. Has this been a challenge for you as well?”
To win a competitive sale, you need a powerful sales question for influencing the buying criteria to include your company’s differentiators. In this question, “X” refers to any problem customers experience that your company can solve better than anybody else.
Unsuccessful salespeople talk in general platitudes about how great their company is. Successful salespeople are much more specific. They link their company’s strengths to explicit customer needs.
For example, one of my clients prides themselves on providing excellent customer service. One aspect of their service is that the answer 98% of customer service calls within 10 seconds or less. So, their salespeople don’t brag in generalities about their “great customer service.” Instead, they ask questions such as, “We’ve heard from other decision-makers such as yourself that they sometimes have difficulty getting through to customer service, especially during peak holiday periods. Have you ever experienced this problem with your current supplier?” And then they go on to share proof of how quickly they answer service calls.
“Where are you in your decision-making process?”
It is vital to know where your customer is in their buying process because where they are determines the type of information they need, and how you should sell to them. It also provides you with valuable information about your odds of winning the sale.
If the prospect is in the initial phases of a decision, you might hear them answer this powerful sales question, “We have been thinking about doing something about this, but we haven’t got around to it yet.” Conversely, you might hear the customer say, “We have been meeting with two other suppliers and our company policy is to get at least three quotes.” Uh oh. Others have had more selling time than you.
“Is there anybody who may be opposed to this?”
Recently I was prepping to deliver a sales presentation to several decision-makers. The day prior, I called my key contact, and asked this question. He responded, “Yes, Jim, our VP of Marketing.”
Further probing revealed that Jim had previously worked with a competitor and preferred their solution.
So now I knew that Jim was going to be a problem. But Jim didn’t know that I knew he favored my competitor.
During the meeting I asked Jim directly, “What, in your opinion, must your chosen supplier be able to do to exceed your expectations?” I then explained to all specifically how we would exceed those expectations.
Knowing in advance that Jim was an enemy gave me time to formulate a strategy to overcome Jim’s bias. This powerful sales question helped me to gain that insight.
What capabilities have you seen from other companies that you haven’t yet seen from us?
When you ask a prospect, “Who am I competing with?” sometimes they can’t (or won’t) answer you. When this happens, ask this “What capabilities have you seen…” question next. How the prospect answers this question will quickly reveal potential areas of perceived weakness that you must immediately address.
If you’d like to learn more powerful sales questions, order a copy of my book, “Slow Down, Sell Faster!” It’s now available in audio from Audible here: