Jun 7, 2021 • Podcast

What questions should I ask my customers or prospects?

Paul fleshes out the important questions you should be prepared to ask on a sales call.

Show Notes: 

“You’re not only gathering information, but you’re also….” 

“If you can have a deeper understanding of [the buyer’s] customer base, it’s going to help you help your customer deliver value to their customer.”

Find out Paul’s favorite question.

Don’t forget to ask for the business!


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What questions should I ask my customers or prospects?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s show, we’re going to talk about sales questions. Recently, I sat down with a couple of entrepreneurs, actually. They’re a startup company and we had a half-day coaching session kind of walking through their sales plan, how to sell more effectively. And we spent quite a bit of time talking about questions. And they wanted to know, “Hey Paul, what are the best questions we should ask our customer?” So that is the question we are going to answer on today’s show.

Before we get into that, a quick shout-out to our sponsor: Andrea, over at The Creative Impostor Studios does such a great job in the podcast. I know that several of you listening have actually started your podcast, and I know you’re using Andrea, so that’s great news. You’re in good hands. So if you were thinking of starting a podcast, if you have an idea for a podcast—even a seed of an idea—now is the time to get started with it. To help you along the way, Andrea and her team will be there. We’re going to have a link to her website on this episode’s webpage. Make sure you check it out.

Also, big news. As I mentioned on our previous episodes, Selling Through Tough Times is going to launch September 28th. We now have the date of the book launch. It’s going to be available in Barnes & Noble, Chapters, wherever you get your books. It’s also available for pre-order on Amazon right now. So pre-order your copy today on Amazon.

Also in the meantime, we’ve got Value-Added Selling for you. It’s on the fourth edition. In that book, we have a whole section called The Needs Analysis Stage of the sales call. It’s one of the chapters, I think chapter 24, 25 in the book. We have our SCP probing model. We’ve got a list of questions that will help you generate a good discussion with your customer.

So let’s get back to that original question: What are the best sales questions that we can ask our customers? You know, one of my favorite questions to ask customers is, “How do you define value?” Think about that. Any variation of that question, “How do you define value on this project?” “How do you define value when making this type of decision?” This is such a great question because it helps us zero in on what’s really important to them. It helps us understand what outcomes they’re looking for. It also gives this customer free range to answer and to provide you with additional information. So I absolutely love that question. It’s going to generate a good discussion between you and the customer. And really, that’s the purpose of asking good questions. It helps generate a good discussion. And once you generate that discussion, you can uncover what the buyer really needs. You’re not only gathering information, but you’re also building rapport with the buyer.

That’s one thing I don’t think salespeople truly understand. With good questions, you’re getting the buyer to talk more, and as the more they talk to you, the more comfortable they are with you. And the more comfortable they become with you, the more rapport you are building; the more open they’re going to be. It’s just a good thing. These are all good things.

The next question: “What’s important to you when making this decision.” I love this question because it helps highlight the key factors, the key metrics they’re going to use to make their decision. What’s important to you when making this decision? Now, sometimes when you ask this question, the buyer’s going to say, “Well, price is going to be important. Our price is what matters to me.” When that happens, it’s important to set aside price at that moment. And you can reassure the buyer by saying, “You know, I understand price is going to be one of the factors you consider. We’ve been in the industry for blah, blah, blah number of years, and we do that by offering great value and competitive pricing. So, let’s put pricing aside for now, because if we can’t get the other factors right, the price really doesn’t matter. So putting price aside for now, what else is important to you?”

So you’re setting price aside. You’re getting price out of the equation just for a few moments. It’s reassuring the buyer, too, letting them know that, hey, you’re going to be competitive. But it’s also focusing on what really matters to them. So again, that question is, “What’s important to you when making this decision?”

Third question, and this is another one of my favorite questions. Ask your customer, “What are your customers expect[ing] from you?” Think about that. Think about your prospect that you’re selling to. Your prospects, your existing customers, they also have customers that they are accountable to, that they’re answering to, that they’re trying to create value for them. If you can have a deeper understanding of their customer base, what they expect, what’s important to them, it’s going to help you help your customer deliver that value to their customer.

And that’s a very powerful-powerful value proposition because you’re helping your customer grow their business. You’re helping your customer enhance their reputation in the industry. The key is, though, you have to understand what your customer’s customers expect from them. So once you understand who your customer’s customers are, then you can have a deeper understanding of what’s driving their decision making. You’ll understand the why behind what they do, and that puts you in a much better position. So again, question to your customers, “Tell me about your customers and what they expect from you.”

Here’s the next question. Now you’re going to be putting a number to something—a metric. Here’s a question. Ask your buyer, “On a 10-point scale (10 being the absolute best—being perfect), how would you rate your current solution, or your current supplier, or your current provider?” The reason I like this question is, you’re going to have a metric. The buyer might say, “Well, they’re at about a seven,” or “They’re about an eight.” Now you can ask the question, “Okay. Well, what’s getting in the way of them being a 10?” “What’s in the way of them getting a 9?” What you’re doing is you’re forcing them to give you a metric, a number, and nobody’s perfect. Nobody is perfect. Every time I’ve asked this question, I’ve never heard a 10. Okay. Never heard a 10.

When you ask this question, it goes to the follow-up, “How can we get better on that?” “How can we improve on that?” And so, what you’re doing is you’re trying to gauge their level of satisfaction with their current solution, and you’re doing it by asking them to tie it to a 10-point scale. And then once they give you that number, then you can build on that. It’s very powerful. Very powerful.

The next question—this is the follow up to the 10-point-scale question, and that is, “What would you change, improve or enhance about your current solution?” You know, once you get the buyer to tell you that, “Hey, nobody’s perfect. They’re at an eight;” “They’re at a seven;” “There at a nine,”even: “What would you change, improve or enhance about it?” They’ve already mentioned that it’s not perfect, so there’s a good chance they’ve thought about this already. They think back at their experience with their current provider or current solution, and they’re thinking, “Man, I wish they could do this,” or “I wish this solution could do that.” All you’re doing is drawing that information out. And as you draw that information out, the buyer starts to realize that “You know what? Maybe what I have is not the best solution.” So, again, that’s a great question. It helps us establish the need and reveals a need, maybe, that the buyer didn’t even know they had. So again, that question is, “What would you change, improve or enhance?”

Here’s the next question. This one is, by far, my favorite question on this list. It’s a real head-scratcher. And if you want to generate a great discussion, here it is: “If you ran our business, what would you offer customers like yourself that nobody else is offering?” Boom! Drop the mic. Just walk out of the room. Let that sink in for just a moment. Again, the question is, “If you ran our business, what would you offer customers like yourself that nobody else is offering?” What a great question.

This does a couple things. Number one, you’re asking the buyer to put themselves in the position of the owner of your company, and you’re allowing them to dream and think about what they would offer: what’s missing, the pain that they’ve had in the past. This question will generate such a great discussion. The key is letting it sink in—letting it sink in with the buyer. Giving them time to answer that question. What a great question. Again, that question is, “If you were in our business (if you ran our business), what would you offer customers like yourself?” What a question.

And the final question, this is the seventh question. And it’s a simple question, but it’s a question that many salespeople forget to ask. The question is, “Can I have your business?” Asking for the sale. I’ve trained so many salespeople. I’ve been out in the field. I’ve worked with so many salespeople and we get to that point where the buyer’s interested. They want to move forward, but they [the sellers] just don’t ask for the business. These closing questions, which, that’s the number seven is as a closing question. Closing questions are critical because if you sense that the buyer’s interested, if you sense they’re ready to move forward, ask for the business. And if they seem hesitant, then you probe further and you ask what’s going on.

If they need more information, if they need more time, if they need you to re-explain the value proposition, whatever it may be. But you’ll never know what you need to do unless you ask for the business. And don’t forget that they could say yes. I’m sure many of you in sales have been caught off guard by “Yes.” I know I have. I remember, several times early on in my sales career where I would propose a solution. I would go through my presentation, and then I would say something like, “Okay, well, what are your thoughts?” And they say, “Okay, that’s great.” And in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Really, you guys are going to buy? Awesome! Man, this is unbelievable!’ I remember getting caught off guard from a “Yes.” So just as a thought, make sure that you’re prepared for that buyer to say yes. Prepare for them to say yes, but in order for them to say yes, you’ve got to ask the question, “Can I have your business?”

All right, folks, that is the show for today. Those are seven questions for you to help you generate much better sales conversations.

Make it a big day.

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