By Mary Ann McLaughlin, Managing Partner
If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes. Albert Einstein
When we receive the wrong answer or information from a computer system, we are accustom to saying “garbage in, garbage out”. It’s the same with any Google search – the question you ask determines the quality of the information you receive back. How many times have you asked a question on a Google search only to receive a list of things that had nothing to do with what you were trying to find out? Hone the question in your search and the answer is right there at the top of the list. And so it is with your client development team. The questions they ask of prospects determine whether or not they are going to advance the sale and ultimately win the deal.
Most of us believe that asking questions is easy and the real skill lies in the creation of the solution. Questioning is in fact, the most important skill in both learning and persuading and skillful questioning is what every successful client development person is known for. It is a craft that can be learned and one that needs to be continually developed and sharpened.
There are 4 distinct types of questions needed for successful client development. They provide the basis for advancing the relationship, handling objections, avoiding misunderstanding, creating the right solutions and winning deals.
Is your team effectively utilizing them?
The 4 types of questions which we teach in our Sales Effectiveness sessions are based on the best-selling sales book, “Become the Only Choice”, authored by founder and Managing Partner of Butler Street, Mike Jacoutot.
The questions are remembered by the acronym SIGN. That’s an easy one to recall, because in client development you should always be looking for the “sign” that takes you down the path to the successful sale! Each type of question has a power all its own:
S – Situation: These questions help you identify the facts, understand the current situation and learn as much as possible about the current state.
I – Insight: These questions are the who, what, when, where and why questions around the current situation. They give you insight into the reality of the situation and help you and your prospect see beyond the obvious. They take the situation in its current state and begin to create space (Gap) between that and the desired state.
G – Gap: These questions are the ones where your prospect sees and feels the Gap between their desired state and their actual state. They are now compelled to take action because they are no longer satisfied with the current state.
N – Needs/Solution: Fortunately, you have a solution! You use these questions to ensure that your prospect recognizes the value of your solution and is willing to move forward.
To demonstrate the power of effective questioning, I share this story. We were working with a prospect whose business was growing close to 50% year over year and every single question we asked to try and gain insight into why he was taking the time to meet with us resulted in a dead end. We could not get to the real problem he was facing because the questions we asked were all answered as if he was perfectly satisfied with his current state.
Then, as planned, we asked the “Magic Wand Insight Question”:
“Bill, if you could wave a magic wand, and fix anything in your business, what would it be?”
Our prospect paused for a minute and then the flood gates opened; sharing the things that he wanted to fix told us all about his challenges that were associated with his growth. From there, we were quickly able to move the conversation to one that would allow us to provide a solution that was a fit for him and one that he realized he desperately wanted! Without gathering that additional insight, we would not have gotten the sale and our client would still be faced with those challenges.
Once you understand the 4 types of questions and the power they bring to conversations, taking the time to craft the right questions at the right stage of the selling process is paramount to success. There are questions that will determine whether you have an opportunity, if you are positioned to compete, if you are able to win, and if the deal is going to be mutually beneficial for both you and your prospect in the long term. These are akin to the Einstein quote. Remember this:
It’s not what you know in the sales process that kills a deal, it’s what you don’t know.
The right questions work to minimize and eventually eliminate what you don’t know in the sales process. At Butler Street we help our clients develop best practices around SIGN questions and to seek to understand before asking to be understood. We combine skillful questioning with active listening and a proven process to ensure execution. Click on contact and learn now we can help your company and your people grow.