The Selling Power Of The Provocative Question

When you tell prospects and clients about what you can do for them, how much do you ‘tell’ your way through your story, and how much do you ‘ask’?

If you’re like most people, you try to tell as much as you can, as quickly as you can, in order to give your prospect as much information as possible in the hopes that something will trigger some interest. After all, you’ve got excellent credentials to describe, great case studies, impressive expertise and a gazillion years of experience, (especially if you combine all the experience of each of the partners of the firm) – and you really, really know what you’re talking about, right?

(If you don’t think this describes you, I challenge you to put a tape recorder in the room next time you have a new client meeting.)

If you never seem to get people as interested as you had hoped they would be, here’s why: the person you’re talking to simply can’t process all the information you’re overwhelming him or her with, and consequently he or she tunes out.

Instead of making statements, try asking questions.

Questions Force The Other Person To Think, Relate to the Problem, and Visualize

Does your Essential Message get the person to turn off auto-pilot, relate to the problem, and create a mental picture? These are three of the most effective ways you can use to get your prospects interested in what you have to offer. Questions are powerful tools because they incorporate all three techniques in one fell swoop, fully engaging him or her in your conversation.

Here’s an example: Imagine that I want to sell you conference facilities. Let’s say that one of the advantages of the room is the flexible lighting capabilities it offers. Perhaps another advantage is sound system, and how it allows you to patch into it or even bring your own equipment.

The typical sales approach would be to list all these features and benefits. The problem with this approach, however, is that extolling the room’ features and benefits is exactly what you’d expect me to do. As a result, you’d be subconsciously ready to find the holes in my arguments in order to resist ‘being sold’.

Besides, you may not even understand how these features and benefits make a difference to you.

Alternatively, I could ask you a few very simple questions: First I ask, ‘would it make your event better if you can light different areas of the room in different ways?’

If the answer is yes, then I can probe more about what kind of lighting would be best. If the answer is ‘I thought I had to bring an outside lighting service to do that,” it opens the door for me to describe the unique advantages of this room compared to others that you might have already seen. If the answer is no, I can simply move on, and ask, ‘What about the sound system – do you have your own system by any chance?’

All I am doing is asking questions about your needs, and as a result, I am forcing you to think about the answers. Even better, I am getting you to put yourself in the situation and relate to the problem about how long it takes in a very personal way.

We’re off to a good start.

Questions Force You To Listen, Helping You to Qualify Your Prospect and Discover What’s Really Important

No doubt you’ve heard the maxim that sales is more about listening than talking. By asking the question, you put yourself in a position where you have no choice but to listen. And, what you are listening for are clues that you are on the right track.

Continuing the example above, I have to be prepared for any answer I might get. Let’s say that in the course of the conversation, it comes out the you are most concerned about maximizing the experience.

Bingo! Our facilities give you lighting and sound flexibility to customize the ambiance as the evening progresses.

OK, so now let’s say that experience isn’t an issue but costs are.
Bingo again! The room saves you the cost of hiring an outside lighting service or additional sound equipment.

And what if the answer comes back that I am totally on the wrong track? No problem. I’ll simply move on to another line of questions.

Whatever happens, you win – in fact, we both win – because I am demonstrating a sincere interest in your needs, which boosts my credibility and helps me avoid wasting time on issues that aren’t important.

Questions Force You To See The Links Between Features, Advantages and Benefits.

The end goal of pretty much every single product or service in the business world can be linked to one or more of the following five business decision hot buttons: grow the business; increase customer loyalty; reduce costs; improve productivity; and gain a competitive advantage.

On the consumer side – and since you are always dealing with an individual, these play a role for businesses as well — your customer will be more concerned with emotional issues such as prestige, acceptance, respect, or pride.

All the steps between what you offer and one of these hot buttons is what we call a ‘Conversational Thread’. The shorter the thread, the quicker you can show the value of what you offer.

By taking the other person through a line of questions that ultimately lead the hottest hot button, he or she will see the value of what you offer without any overt ‘selling’. In other words, all you are doing is creating the environment in which your prospect convinces him or her self.

Here’s how it’s done.

Now, if all this sounds like a manipulative sales ‘technique’ to you, then you might have missed the point. The bottom line is that questions help you to be a better listener, while still maintaining control of the flow and direction of the conversation. They allow you to probe and uncover the other person’s needs.

And that is simply a prerequisite for effective communication.

“What question can I ask, such that the response allows you to say, ‘well, that’s exactly what I do.'”

But how do you get your message across by asking questions? Simple. Write your main points down on a piece of paper. Next to each one, write a question that elicits an answer from the person you are speaking to, that allows you to say, ‘that’s what I do.’

In The Essential Message™ Workshop, people learn how to ‘ask’ their way through their story. It’s a process of initiating each key thought with a question, and paying attention to the conversational ‘doors’ that open up for you. According to the feedback forms they complete at the end of the workshop, this by far is one of the most valuable and useful insights they get out of it.

So next time you have something that you think is really important or compelling to talk about, try turning it into a question.

It really works.