There is no overstating the value of questioning in the sales process. In fact, many believe it is the single most important tool in the sales professional’s arsenal.
However, even those who understand the principles of questioning have another challenge ahead. The content component of questioning isn’t really the challenge — most sales professionals enter a call with a pretty good understanding of the questions they want to ask. How to ask those questions is the tough part.
The concept of the pre-question statement was introduced in The Baron Group’s training as a way of making salespeople more comfortable asking difficult questions, and more importantly, making clients feel more comfortable answering them. The pre-question statement is outlined in the following graphic:
Pre-question statements should be used before asking a difficult question such as:
- “Why are you reluctant to work with us?”
- “Can you outline the competitive offering?”
- “Who will make the decision?”
The pre-question statement explicitly shares the reason you are asking the question and lets the client know the benefit of their answering. Here is an example using the first difficult question from above:
“I can appreciate your concerns. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask a few questions about your ideal outcome. It would help me learn more about how I can be a valued provider.”
As sales professionals, we are always trying to differentiate ourselves, and we are always trying to learn as much about our clients as possible. By asking the questions that others were too afraid to, and in such a way that encourages the client to answer, you’ll learn more about your client and clearly differentiate yourself.
So take some time and come up with a list of questions that you often want to ask clients, but are reluctant to do so. Then write several pre-question statements for each. We are confident it’ll be time well spent – you’ll emerge from this exercise well-prepared to ask those questions that will make you stand out from your competitors. Now, who can argue against that?
What do you feel is one of the most challenging questions to ask a client? Leave a comment and let us know.