Most business leaders and sellers ask questions on sales calls. But how certain are you that the questions you ask are the best questions?
At Kopp Consulting, we have a certain name for better questions. We call them “High Gain” questions. Why? When worded deliberately and used at the right times, High Gain questions will help you to:
- elicit better information and more meaningful opportunities
- know the prospect’s perspective on the path forward to working together
- uncover the “GAP” between what the prospect has now versus what could be if you were providing your products/services instead of their current solution.
We provide our clients with a list of these questions during the Door Opener® Service so when they have the meetings our Door Openers land for them, our clients are well prepared to make the most of their time with important prospects!
We are known for getting our clients in the door with their executive level prospects for the first meeting and for developing superior sales messaging (a foundational element of piquing the interest of this level of decision maker). For example, we recommend that sellers don’t ask what a prospect is looking for in a solution (a text book question from my sales training days). Instead, we recommend they ask what MORE the prospect is looking for than what he/she is getting from the current vendor (or current solution). By adding just one word (“more”), it changes the question (and therefore the answer) in an important way.
Some high gain questions, when asked in a sequence are even more powerful than when asked by themselves.
Below is one of my favorite three question sequences which works like a charm to uncover the path to the close from the prospect’s point of view. It is also phrased deliberately so that prospects willingly answer, even in the beginning of the relationship.
Question 1: If what we discuss is nirvana for you, what is the road to us working together… what paperwork needs to be signed and who else needs to be involved?
“Nirvana” may not be the word you choose, that’s ok, change it to something that suits you better yet means the same thing. Think of what the rest of this question does for you. You are asking the prospect to tell you the exact roadmap to working with you as a new vendor. Armed with this information you will be well ahead of your competitors with what needs to be done and in what order. For example, some companies need you to be set up as a new vendor or they need you to use their contract instead of yours or complete an NDA. The sooner you learn this information and execute, the shorter your sales cycle. Asking the question, “Who else needs to be involved…” is a very non-threatening, non-confrontational way to ask if there are other stakeholders who need to be on board before the final decision (including your prospect’s boss). Too often, when this question is not asked early enough in the sales process, sellers can face unhappy surprises too late in the game to turn things around. When you deliver this question (as with most questions), you must be silent. Wait for the answer from the prospect. If you talk over the prospect’s thought process, you may never hear the real answer. Different people process information at different paces. Give your prospects time to think and respond!
Question 2: By when do you want this in your review mirror… completed?
Learning the answer to this question will help you lay out a timeline which will help you create urgency for your prospect. “If you want this completed in 6 months, we will need to get started next month. This means we need to have an agreement in place in the next few weeks. Let’s put a time on the calendar to review the proposal which I’ll complete by mid-next week. How is next Thursday at 10 for you to review it with me on a screen share?”
Question 3: Why is that timing important to you?
Knowing why the timing is important to the prospect uncovers motivation behind the prospect’s urgency. This is typically tied to something that benefits the prospect as an individual. For example, it may be part of the executive’s goals for the year or the ability to be recognized or promoted. If the sale stalls or prospects go silent you can remind them, using their words, why they said the timing for moving forward was so important. “You mentioned you want this completed in 6 months so that you can report on the results in time for your year end review. If we don’t start within the next few weeks, how will you achieve your timeline goal?” I call this “Flip the Switch” language. It politely feeds back to your prospects that which they said was important and gives them the chance to rethink the path forward. Again, when delivering this question, be quiet and wait for the answer.
Consider time with prospects like valuable real estate. Make the most of every minute by preparing “High Gain” questions (or question sequences like the one in this article). This will help you shorten the sales cycle and remove some of the mystery around the path to the finish line. When our clients attend the meetings our Door Openers land for them, we always do a “mini-refresher” to remind, even the most seasoned sellers, of the best practices around structuring conversations during prospect meetings which yield the best results!