By Nic Robertson
If you have ever gone shopping for a new TV, with all the different options available, you know it can be a very overwhelming experience. And then the salesperson who’s supposed to be helping you may not even ask you any questions about your budget or your needs. All they say is, “Buy this one.”
How likely is it that you will take their advice? Probably not that likely. When your needs are not adequately understood or taken into account, you have no reason to trust the recommendations of a so-called expert.
Unfortunately, many salespeople and business owners fall into this same trap. They don’t invest the time and effort into understanding their prospects and come across like a snake oil salesperson.
However, by pausing, asking the right questions, and actively listening, you can gain your prospect’s trust and get them excited about working with you.
In this article, we’ll share five of the most important questions you should ask every prospect before you send a sales proposal. These questions will help you drill down to the core of your prospect’s desires and expectations and learn if your product or service is a good fit for them.
How to qualify your prospects and get them talking
When speaking with a prospect for the first time, you want to figure out their needs as soon as possible, while also deciding if they are a good fit for your product. This process, called sales qualification, is a crucial part of your sales process and, when done right, will increase your sales closing rates and boost your company’s revenue.
To properly qualify prospects and get them to share their needs and expectations with you, you should:
- Ask open-ended questions. When qualifying a prospect, there’s nothing worse than asking a “yes/no” question. That type of question will not give you any useful information or insight into your prospect’s mind. Rather, you want to ask open-ended questions that will get your lead to share their ideas and perspectives with you. For example, instead of asking, “Your business produces custom-made shoes, right?” you should ask, “Tell me more about your business.” The second question is open-ended and will require the prospect to share more about themselves.
- Practice active listening. Active listening is a technique where you carefully listen to your prospect and observe any non-verbal cues, such as a change in tone. With active listening, you provide feedback by paraphrasing what the prospect has said. Doing this ensures that you understand what they’ve said without any biases on your part while also making the prospect feel heard and understood. A good example is saying, “If I understand you, you said . . . ” The prospect can then respond in the affirmative or correct any assumptions or misinterpretations that may have unintentionally occurred.
- Sell a solution, not a product. Your prospect does not care about your product as much as they care about solving their challenges and meeting their goals. So, when composing your proposal or giving your sales pitch, you need to highlight how your product is a solution to their problems, rather than just talking about the features of your product. When done right, your proposal or sales pitch should leave your prospect feeling like, “Yes, this is the solution I have been waiting for.”
5 questions to get your prospects talking
We all know that asking questions is important. They help you get to know your prospect better, which means selling to them becomes easier. However, asking the right questions is key to getting useful, valuable answers. Asking the wrong questions will not give you clarity on what your prospect needs and will make it harder, if not impossible, to close the deal.
Here are five questions that have been proven to get your prospects talking:
Question #1: Could you tell me about your business?
This question is a great way to start a conversation with your prospect. Whether through a lead-qualification form, a discovery call, or even a conversation on social media, giving the client some space to talk about their business will put them at ease and can build some trust.
Pay attention to the things your prospect mentions or omits when describing their business, as it would suggest other areas to explore as you continue the conversation.
Question #2: What are your goals for the next [3, 6, 12] months?
To get useful answers, ask simple yet probing questions like this one. By asking your prospects what their goals are, you will know what results they expect from working with you over a defined time range and can use that knowledge to make a compelling proposal.
A proposal with projects and timelines that aligns with your prospects’ expectations will make it easier to convince the prospect to work with you.
Question #3: What challenges are you facing as you work towards these goals?
This question allows you to begin digging into the real challenges that your prospect is facing. A prospect will only work with you if they believe your product or service can solve the problems that are keeping them up at night. You should also ask follow-up questions to clarify exactly what the prospect considers a challenge and what an ideal situation would look like.
These follow-up answers can unlock an opportunity for you to provide some simple fixes upfront that solve a little part of the prospect’s problem. For example, if your prospect is having issues with their website’s performance, providing a simple hack like compressing their images or adding alt text to their images proves that you are an expert and will help you close the deal.
Question #4: What effect would solving these problem(s) have on your business?
This question is great for putting your product or service’s value into perspective. Answering this question forces the prospect to imagine a future where these challenges are resolved and to estimate its positive impact on their business. This line of thinking also helps prospects to see your product or service as a wise, strategic investment rather than an unavoidable expense.
Question #5: How much are you willing to invest to meet your goals?
Setting budget expectations can be quite tricky, but this question reinforces the idea that working with you is an investment, not an expense. Asking what a prospect is willing to invest to meet their goals and solve their problems will also give you a range to work with, which will be helpful when creating your proposal.
These five questions will get your prospects to open up, help you understand their expectations, and build trust. Make sure to use each question in your discovery calls to identify promising leads and ensure your proposals provide valuable solutions every time.
What’s next after lead qualification?
After the lead qualification phase, you should have a solid grasp of your prospect’s challenges and goals. You should also clearly understand how your product or service fits into their business and generates the desired outcomes.
The next step is to condense all of these insights into a compelling proposal. It is crucial that you address everything that the prospect mentioned in the qualification call and provide a clear-cut solution to the challenge at hand.
About the Author
Post by: Nic Robertson
Over the past decade Nic Robertson has lived and worked across Asia-Pacific, helping brands of all shapes and sizes to achieve global success using digital. Nic currently lives in Sydney and heads up brand marketing at
pxmo, a simple tool for creating compelling, interactive business proposals.
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