One of the best qualities that we can develop in sales is the skill of asking questions. Being able to obtain information from prospects is a pre-requisite to providing answers and services to them.
When we ask salespeople what type of questions they ask of their prospects, they often reply with ‘open’ and ‘closed’ questions. These are the basic questions that a person can ask. But there are more ‘types’ of questions that will help you get deeper and more concise information. Here are a series of different questions you can ask that will get you quality answers.
Probing Questions: These dig deeper for further intense information. For example, the client may say they are looking for a better price. A probing question could be, “When you say ‘better price’ are you referring to the up-front price or the long-term cost?”
Rhetorical Questions: These are questions where you’re not expecting an answer to, but make the client think as if a question is being asked. For example, you might say, “I’m sure you’d agree that the extra warranty builds more confidence in the product?” Also “This will offer you better return on investment, which is what you said you needed, isn’t it?”
Focused Questions: These narrow down the discussions by concentrating on specific areas of concern for the client. For example, “You mentioned the extra costs incurred in developing your own solutions. Exactly how much are you talking about?” This focusses in on specific concerns and helps you zero in on solutions.
Reflecting Questions: These reflect back on what the customer might have been referring to and helps the detail become clearer. For example, “When you say ‘I’m looking to start very soon’, could you tell me when ‘very soon’ is?” You take the ideas and concerns the prospect may have and act like a mirror in reflecting them back to him, for further and deeper discussions.
Hypothetical Questions: These are conjectural or conditional questions that get the client thinking through various scenarios. For example, “Suppose you were to change suppliers and get quicker deliveries…what impact would that have on your current level of business?” Also, “What would happen if you lost two of you top ten customers?” These questions get the prospect thinking about the possible future situations.
Clarifying Questions: These do as you would suppose, clarifying the situation, so there’s less distortion in the understanding. For example, “Could you be more precise when you say you want ‘better results’?” Also, “How do you see these services offering better results for your customers?” You increase the clarity of meaning when the prospect answers these questions.
Leading Questions: These are questions that lead the client to a clearer understanding of what your solution might do for them. For example, “You do understand how our BX150 Model will help you save money in the long run, and help you reduce time needed to fix faults, don’t you?” Also, “This solution will encourage your customers to be more loyal to you, which is what you were requiring, wasn’t it?” This type of question aids in building confidence in your solution by gaining agreement with you.
What you’ll see is how many questions cross over each other, so some clarifying questions may also be open, focussed and reflecting as well. Some leading questions may be probing and clarifying. So the real point is not to think ‘what type of question should I ask?’ It’s ‘How can my quality of questions get the best out of the discussions I am having?’
Be aware of the way you can get the client to consider different options with the different format of questions, and you’ll find you get better quality answers from your prospects.