Become a Questioning Master
Effective questioning is the key to getting information. Sales reps who understand this principle will master the art of the interview. They will be able to take the information garnered from effective questioning and develop solutions surrounding each specific answer. There are 5 distinct types of questions reps can use to do this, all of which have their own purpose & information targets that need to be understood. These question types are broken down into two specific areas:
- Information Questions
- Action Questions
1) Information Questions
2) Action Questions
1) Three (3) Types of Information Questions
Information questions do exactly what their name implies. The primary focus of these questions is to extract information. Sales reps use these questions during the initial phases of the effective questioning sequence to obtain an understanding of a buyer situation, values, and agreement of information exchange. These questions are a mixture of open, guided and closed questions. They also work to create agreement between the sales reps and buyer, to generate buyer engagement and build momentum for a potential deal. There are three main information questions that sales reps should use to create a focused questioning process to gather information: status, value, and alignment.
A) Status Questions (Current Situation)
Sales reps must make a clear distinction between questions that elicit information and questions that elicit data. They have to be careful not to ask too many data questions or buyers will feel as though they are being surveyed. Data questions are used primarily for qualification and identification. Therefore, these types of questions provide sales reps with information such as the size of their company, and the number of employees etc. This information does not have a great bearing on the deal and can usually be uncovered during pre-call planning.
Information questions are used to build need and identify a fit for a potential solution. Information gathered from these questions has an impact on the deal, and the responses to these questions change as a buyer's needs and a rep's understanding of the situation change.
B) Value Questions (Personal Value & Business Value)
Creating alignment is the process of going back and forth; asking and telling (ask/tell) information with buyers to establish common understanding. Building on the responses from value questions, sales reps must focus on their unique capabilities. Reps have to ask questions that connect a buyer's vision of an ideal solution to their unique offering. If the correct questions are asked and the proper information is communicated, then reps will be able to close the gap between a buyer's current situation and the ideal situation they seek.
C) Alignment Questions
Creating alignment is the process of going back and forth; asking and telling (ask/tell) information with buyers to establish common understanding. Building on the responses from value questions, sales reps must focus on their unique capabilities. Reps have to ask questions that connect a buyer’s vision of an ideal solution to their unique offering. If the correct questions are asked and the proper information is communicated, then reps will be able to close the gap between a buyer’s current situation and the ideal situation they seek.
2) Two (2) Types of Action Questions
Typically, since reps are after a deal, they are inclined to do all of the work to close. As a result, they often do not confirm that a buyer is engaged in the process. Reps engage in a one sided ask/tell interaction. Reps must continually strive to make the process equal or balanced by ensuring the buyer is engaged. This is accomplished when a buyer engages in an action and has a vested interest in the deal. Taking actions proves engagement. Action is also an early warning sign to see if a buyer is interested in the deal. If action is absen then engagement does not exist in the deal.
Sales reps need to elicit action from buyers to move a sale forward. Asking action questions will aid this process. Once alignment is solidified, sales reps can focus on creating action by asking questions that will help them determine whether the buyer is committed. They also ask these questions to understand potential causes of what may prevent a buyer from partaking in action commitments to move the deal forward.
A) Engagement Questions (Getting Buyer Action)
Engagement continues and commitment actions grow as the deal progresses. The final commitment question to close a deal is only one of many engagement and commitment questions throughout the sales process. Through the use of effective engagement questions, the rep will be confident that the buyer will agree to the deal, as they have continually and progressively demonstrated commitment throughout the process.
If a buyer is not willing to offer commitment to requests throughout the process, then sales reps must ask root cause questions to understand buyer's resistance as these situations occur.
B) Root Cause Questions (Understanding Buyer Inaction)
There are three focal points of these questions. Sales reps have to identify:
Bottom Line & Business Impact:
Sales reps that following this questioning process and use the 5 different types of questions in their arsenal will effectively gather the information they need to satisfy a buyer with a solution that is based on their specific situation.