what_to_askEarlier this week, we introduced you to the idea that thoroughly understanding your customers’ key business objectives and the challenges inhibiting their fulfillment is the most important element to the sales process, and that traditionally salespeople do a poor job in this phase. If you haven’t read the first part of this series, “Why It Matters,” you can check it out here.

So, the question becomes – how can we help sales reps be more successful? First and foremost, we can arm them with a series of questions designed to get their prospects talking about their challenges in their own words. People are most convinced by ideas they themselves originate, so getting your prospects to define their own objectives and challenges is critical to getting their buy in throughout the sales process.

The following are three types of questions designed to get your prospects talking about their challenges.

Open Questions.  Your prospect has discussed his primary business objective – now how to get him talking about why he’s not able to accomplish that objective. These questions are designed to do just that. They uncover the tip of the iceberg, and are the first step in the discovery process.

  • “What are the main concerns you’re having with respect to…..?”
  •  “Usually people come to us for help in one or more of the following areas (list 2-3 problems you solve for people); are any of these issues for you?”
  • “Tell me more…” or “Tell me why…”

When you ask questions like this, look for the prospect to make statements like:

  • “My sales are not where I want them to be.”
  • “We’re spending too much on…..”
  • “We’re not happy with…..”

Cause Questions.  Now that you have the problem defined, the next step is to look for the reasons for the challenge.  What’s causing the disparity?  Typically there are several causes.  Pay close attention as these are the issues you will ultimately try to resolve for the prospect. This information leads you to your presentation.

  • “What are the reasons this is going on?”
  • “Why do you suppose this is happening?”
  • “Do you know what’s causing these problems?”

It’s vital for you to understand – even better than the prospect – what’s causing their challenges.  You’ll hear things like:

  • “Our current supplier is having quality and delivery problems.”
  • We don’t have the right software and our people need training.”

Keep Them Talking. Learn to direct the conversation and keep your prospects talking.  When they are talking, they are giving you valuable information. When you’re monopolizing the conversation, you’re losing an opportunity to discover what will motivate them to take action.  Add these types of questions to your repertoire and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the issues.

  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “What else is there?”
  • ”Is there anything else?”
  • “Could you be a little more specific?”

With these three types of questions, your sales reps should be able to encourage prospects to fully define their key challenges, which is a critical first step in the qualifying process.

But, there is more. Next sales reps need to get prospects to quantify the impact these challenges have on their business. What is the cost of doing nothing? Here’s where they will be able to establish the value and ROI of your offering. To learn more about quantifying your prospects challenges, stay tuned next week for the third and final installment of our series.

Back to Part 1 | Go to Part 3