The way you ask questions makes all the difference to the answers you get. That may seem simple, banal even, but a bit of deep digging will demonstrate just how profound the question technique can be to output. If there is one element of telemarketing, lead generation, market research, or pretty much anything in sales that matters most, it’s question technique. The way we ask questions, and the question itself can be the factor that makes us successful.
Selling is about building rapport, which means you have to get people talking. It’s about generating relationships that have the potential for the long term, which means you have to get people talking. You have to show you understand customer needs, which means you have to get people talking. Essentially, your question techniques must enable you to Get in – Get on – and Get out, so the cycle of your calls is built upon a robust objective and process. Sounds complicated? It’s not. You won’t do it by accident, but carefully controlled use of good questions works a treat.
1. So how do you get people talking
At Blue Donkey, our intelligent telemarketing model rests on ‘needs based selling’. One of our mantras is ‘where there’s no need, there’s no lead’. You can’t just call people, tell them what you’re offering, and produce a lead. The cheap and cheerful telemarketing agency model will do just that. This method will produce some leads, but they won’t be based on two way conversations, so they will ultimately fail to win the hearts and minds you need for good long term relationships to happen. Creating leads that endure relies on drawing people into discussions about their business and its objectives. This means your question techniques have some important work to do.
The first step then must be to work out what you want to know. Then base your question on that only. Ask one thing at a time but strip out questions that don’t directly address what you want to know. Often people ask a question because they want it to lead to something else. For example ‘How is business right now?’ Usually, vague questions produce vague answers. You need questions that draw people into relevant conversation quickly and deeply. Open question techniques are always best for this, and generally, they begin with When, What, Why, How. So ask yourself, what do you need to know – then use one of those to compose a short question that gets that information. If it doesn’t get the information you need, redesign your question.
2. How do you find the right information
We describe certain types of question as fertile. Fertile open questions are those that address the big picture of an organisation in relation to your product or service. They could be questions that start with ‘Tell me about how you…’ or I’d be keen to understand what…..’ These won’t be a one size fits all. One question may work for you but flop for someone else. So it’s down to the individual to find questions that work best for them. Keep testing out new ones to build your skills and question technique. Your favourite question will sometimes just break! When it stops working for whatever reason, it’s great to have the skills to just adopt a new one.
Questions that ask about lots of aspects at once are great for drawing people into deep discussion. So ‘How do you achieve maximum efficiency in ….’ Is a good example because it’s about several different features of the business. A buyer will answer that question with deep thought, and whilst they’re doing that your relationship magically begins to grow shoots. People like people who get them talking. The question technique you use at this stage requires you to speak a little, and your buyer to speak lots. Hence you collect a maximum amount of the right information with the minimum words on your part.
3. How to prompt further action
Usually, the goal of the question technique is to get your buyer to the stage where they are eager to take the discussion to the next level. This might be a meeting for example. It’s really important to understand the goal is to create and ‘eagerness for’ not a ‘willingness to’. If a potential buyer is eager, they have brought in, they are invested, and your lead will endure – hopefully to convert to a sale and then a long term relationship. If your potential buyer is only ‘willing’ to go to the next step, you haven’t finished the job. More questions and deeper discussion is needed if you’re going to successfully generate a properly qualified outcome.
Closing questions and techniques are important here. Sincere and straight forward is always the best way to build a close. This is because its core to winning the elusive and mysterious quality of trust. According to Entrepreneur.com getting customers, clients and employees to trust you can be complicated, but it is imperative for success – perhaps more important than sales. If you get others to trust you, it’s easier to grow and nurture your business and give everyone excellent service. The 1980’s were responsible for all manner of blunderbuss closing techniques, most of which failed to grasp the point that if the potential buyer is not invested in what you have to offer, no question technique or close will change that fact. Uncover an appropriate need, and then simply ask the question in your head – which will be something like ‘Can we come and see you’.