By Orvel Ray Wilson, CSP
Most expert speakers have difficulty selling. So imagine a magic potion that you could spritz in the air, that makes every prospect tell you exactly what they want to buy, exactly why they want to buy it, and exactly how much they’re willing to spend? You hold such a potion in your hands.
Asking these questions, in more-or-less this order will magically make your prospect tell you everything you need to close the sale.
1. What is your main objective?
Every prospect wants to solve a problem, make a loved one happy, or look good to their boss. When you understand what your prospect is trying to achieve, you can align your proposal with their objective.
2. How do you plan to achieve that goal?
Your offering may already fit into their plans. Discover their plan and show how you can help fulfill it.
3. What is the biggest problem you currently face?
It’s easier to sell the solution to a problem than to sell a feature or a benefit. So position your offering as a solution. You may find that their biggest problem has nothing to do with your product or service. In that case, try to be of service however you can. Solve it and you’ll be a hero.
4. What other problems do you experience?
You may not be able to solve their biggest problem, so what others can you solve? Once you become a trusted resource, they’ll go out of their way to buy from you.
5. What are you doing currently to deal with this?
6. What is your strategy for the future?
Your prospect’s thinking moves along a trajectory. These two questions, taken together, tell you where your prospect is headed.
7. What other ideas do you have?
Encourage your customer to brainstorm reasons to justify their purchase.
8. What role do others play in creating this situation?
It’s very helpful to know who will influence in the decision. Anyone who is contributing to the problem may be a potential adversary. This question will reveal them.
9. Who else is affected?
Anyone affected by the problem is a potential ally. Recruit them.
10. What are you using now?
11. What do you like most about it?
12. What do you like least about it?
These three questions will elicit the customer’s Criteria Words. Question 10 tells you what they’re buying, from whom, and for how much. Question 11 gives you their Buying Criteria. Your offering must be equivalent just to be considered. This also tells you the Process they use to make the decision. Question 12 tells you where the competitor is vulnerable.
If you can offer your prospect everything they like most, and fix the things they like least, now they have a justification to change.
13. If you could have things any way you wanted, what would you change?
This question inoculates their natural resistance to change. It also allows them to explore possibilities.
14. How will this affect the present situation?
Build a picture in the prospect’s mind of them using the product, benefiting from it, and enjoying it.
15. What would motivate you to change?
This question sets up the rationale they’ll use to justify the change, reducing their resistance. Now we’re filling in the colors of that aspirational image of the future.
16. Do you have a preference?
By learning about their tastes and prejudices in advance, you can suggest appropriate alternatives. This is also an effective way to close; offer two or three alternates, then ask this question.
17. What has been your experience?
If they’ve had a bad experience with the competitor you may be able to exploit it. If they’ve had a positive experience, you can build on that confidence. If they’ve had a bad experience with you, fix it.
18. How do you know?
And you have to be very careful of the tone when you ask this one. You don’t want it to be “How do you know?” Sometimes they really don’t know. Find out where they got their information. You may be able to show proof to substantiate your position.
19. Is there anything else you’d like to see?
This open-ended question encourages them to brainstorm additional options and may reveal additional opportunities. When a restaurant wait staff is trained to ask this simple question, their average check increases by 10 to 20 percent, and so do their tips.
20. How much would it be worth to you to solve this problem? and
21. What would it cost, ultimately, if things remained as they are?
These two questions set up the cost-justification for the investment. Question 20 tells you the most they should be willing to pay, while question 21 tells you the least they should be willing to pay. If they didn’t have a budget before, now you have a working range.
22. Are you working within a budget?
If so, they should reveal it here. If not, you have the necessary data to create one. A budget is the best validation of commitment.
23. How do you plan to finance it?
Where is the money going to come from? Can you offer financing?
24. What alternatives have you considered?
Don’t be naive. They’re talking to the competition. It is perfectly appropriate to ask, even if they decline to say.
25. What benefit would you personally realize as a result?
People do things for their reasons, no matter how good your reasons might be.
26. How would others benefit?
The answer to this question appeals to their altruism, while creating a rationale for what may ultimately be a selfish decision.
27. How can I help?
This is easily the most powerful question in the list.
28. Is there anything I’ve overlooked?
This gives you a chance to tie up any loose ends that might trip you up later on.
29. Are there any questions you’d like to ask?
Encourage your prospect to get all their questions answered here and now.
30. What do you see as the next step?
The prospect will tell you what you need to do to advance the sale: write up an order, check on a specification, make a presentation to a committee, or nothing.
31. Who else, beside yourself, will be involved in making the decision?
Always assume they may be a behind-the-scenes influence.
32. On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident do you feel doing business with us? What would it take to get that up to a 10?
This two-part question will tell you exactly what forms of proof they will require. If they say, “8,” then ask, “What would it take to get to a 9?” If they say “10” start writing the order.
33. Are you working against a particular deadline?
34. How soon would you like to start?
35. When would you like to take delivery?
These are all time-frame questions. Remember, if they’re not motivated by some time frame, they probably will not buy, at least not now.
36. When should we get together to discuss this again?
It’s likely that you won’t be able to close the deal on the first contact, or even the second or third. Let them schedule the next meeting. Their response is the best indication of their motivation to move forward.
37. Is there anything else you’d like for me to take care of?
We leave far too much money on the table because we do not ask this simple parting question.
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