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An interesting thing happened the other day. I was with sales expert Dave Kurlan at the Objective Management Group (OMG) University and he was role-playing with one of the participants on effective discovery for sales assessments. Basically, it was all about demonstrating the importance of asking the buyer enough questions.
In Dave’s role-playing exercise, he asked a lot of questions to try to truly understand this “CEO’s” issues, concerns and risk tolerances. After a few minutes, you could see everyone in the room getting a bit antsy. Someone raised their hand and asked, “How much longer are you going to keep asking questions?” Dave looked at the group, looked at the clock on the wall, and responded, “We have only been doing this for 3 minutes!”
That was an a-ha moment for me.
Granted, we were in a very captive yet safe environment. However, even the sales person who was answering the questions as the C-level buyer in this exercise was getting uncomfortable. Why? Because he wanted Dave to “mini close” the deal or at the least link to a benefit that he could provide.
But, as Dave said, he did not know enough at that time to do that.
Let’s think about this. When you’re talking to key stakeholders to try to qualify, do you ask enough questions? Or do you stop the minute you hear something that allows you to link your benefit or help the buyer? In essence, are you jumping to conclusions without doing sufficient questioning of the bigger picture?
Most of us do just that. But if you’re truly trying to solve problems that are critical to your buyers, then doesn’t it behoove both parties – the seller and the buyer – to spend the time to truly understand the macro and micro issues and how it impacts the buyer’s ability to reach their critical business outcomes?
A best practice would be to gain agreement on the outcome of the call/meeting and then prepare a handful of open-ended questions to get things started. Why only a handful? The reality is, your open-ended questions will lead to other questions you can’t plan for because they depend on the respondent’s answers. All good.
Now take a pause. After asking one of your well-prepared questions and the respondent answers with something that you want to hear, do you then go into solution mode, or do you continue to ask questions? Be honest here. You probably do the former. Most of us do. And, when you do, you potentially shut down the ability to ask more questions.
I like the odds to be in my favor so that next time, I can keep asking questions, share and/or provoke some insights, and ultimately let these interactions substantiate that I’m an expert in helping similar people solve similar problems.
A promise to myself: “Not until I get a full and clear picture by asking the buyer enough questions – and the right questions – will I ‘link’ how my product or service will enable them to achieve their business goal.” What will you do?