Unlock your customer secrets by asking smarter questions.
Smarter questions are part of an effective Discovery process that is essentially an investigation. This assumes that you’ve already established trust with your customer. Want to know more about trust? Check out this blog post .
As in any investigation, the investigator needs to ask the right questions in the right way, to the right people, in order to come to the proper conclusion.
So, the ability to interview well is a vital skill for any salesperson looking to make the most of the Discovery process.
It’s actually an art form, if you think about it. The skilled interviewer needs to meld a deep knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, the interviewee and the purpose of the interview, then combine that with a solid feel for human nature and the unspoken information an interviewee relates through their body language and other signs.
This combination cannot be completely taught in a book. It takes training, practice and dedication to hone to the state of the art.
You can get started by reading this and the next several posts which will help you understand the art of the interview.
There are a few basic types of questions that a Discovery interview should include to make sure all the bases are being covered and the salesperson is truly identifying “the gap” effectively.
A permission question is as simple as it sounds, but it cannot be overlooked without risking alienating or even offending your interviewee.
Basically, a permission question allows the interviewee to confirm that the interview can begin:
“Would you mind if I ask a few questions about your business?”
With this simple introduction, you involve the prospect in the Discovery process and, at the same time, dignify her with the understanding that she doesn’t have to help you, but she wants to.
The fact-finding questions answer the basic who, what, where, when and how much aspects of the interview.
These are generally low-tension questions and answers that help lay a solid groundwork for the “haves” side of the gap.
For example, in determining the organization’s current situation, a number of basic statistics may come into play: revenues, expenses, previous purchase details, personnel details, etc.
Assuming the interviewee is knowledgeable on the subject and/or is able to easily access the information in question, this part of the interview helps to warm up both the salesperson and the prospect.
Most salespeople prefer to start out an interview with fact-finding questions for this reason. Not only does it get the interview off on an easy pace, it also establishes a solid foundation for deeper questions down the road because both the interviewer and the interviewee agree on the information discussed.
Unlike fact-finding questions, which generally elicit a short, definite answer that can be verified and documented, feeling-finding questions get to the application of those facts, and how they affect the business:
“How do you feel about the effectiveness of the current training program?”
“What kinds of improvements would you like to see in these production numbers?”
By using words such as “want”, “like”, “feel” and “think”, you can guide a prospect to some startling revelations about the subjects under discussion.
This is especially effective when used in conjunction with related fact-finding questions.
For example, as an industrial equipment salesperson, you may ask the following fact-finding question:
“How much do you spend each month on repairs and maintenance of your current equipment?”
The prospect can likely provide you with a verifiable estimate of his monthly repair and maintenance costs. But, then, you can follow it up with a feeling-finding question:
“What would it mean to you to cut your repair costs in half?”
Suddenly, the prospect is struck with a few salient points:
- Maybe my current equipment is costing me too much in repair cost
- Maybe this salesperson’s equipment would cost less
- I could use that saved money to help fund expansion
That’s the power of appropriate feeling-finding questions combined with their fact-finding counterparts, as it helps the prospect realize the import of the facts and figures they are surrounded by every day.
You might be interested in participating in our next free webinar about discovery called “ ”.
In the next post, we’ll discuss three more basic question types that every salesperson must master to hone the art of the interview.
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