Recently I had a few conversations with several b2b sales people who asked me about how can they get more information from their buyers or decision makers? As we discussed it, I felt most of these b2b sales people were taking the direct approach to questioning.
So what is the problem with a direct approach? Simply it means these b2b sales people are interjecting their own assumptions regarding answers they receive from their potential customers. Sorry, if this is all you do, you will leave valuable information untouched must less understood in order to provide a better solution.
The key is to use clarity questions which take the potential customer down a smooth path of helping you understand exactly what is happening at their organization.
Here are a series of sample questions you can use. Remember, the method here is to ask a primary question, listen to the response, then ask several “soft” questions to gain a better understanding.
Here are the sample “soft” questions to use…
- What reasons cause you to say that?
- That is interesting, how do you feel about these…?
- That’s interesting, tell me more.
- You know I have several meanings for this… please tell me what it means to you?
- What do you feel are the ramifications of that?
- Are there any additional steps you feel need to be taken?
- Could you expand on that point for me?
- How would solving or reducing this issue help you?
- If you don’t mind, what factors do you feel are driving this concern?
The important thing to remember is these questions must be delivered in a “soft” rather “pushy or nosy” manner. The potential customer needs to feel the genuine interest you have in them and their opinions. Being curious is not a problem for most people and definitely not when they feel you are wanting to understand their business at a higher level.
One additional point, you may have noticed the use of the word “feel” in several of the questions. This is by design – assuming you want to know how this person actually feels about things – otherwise you will get the corporate answers. Corporate answers have no emotional and sometimes little meaning – just the company line.
Watch for people responding to you with “I think.” This is an indicator of a lack of emotion and the corporate correct answer. Whenever I get the – I think… – then I immediately come back with a “how does that feel to you?” to learn how they really feel about the topic. Use this and watch the answers contain valuable information and insights.