What are the 7 most effective questions to ask clients?
As a salesperson I love to be out pitching to clients, and going the through sales process, it is such a genuine thrill to watch effective sales techniques fall into place and work their magic. In a recent pitch, I was suddenly aware at the start that there was more than the average amount of fact finding to be done and the client appeared to be very reticent to bring information forward when the meeting got under way. Not the best combination.
My instincts were alerted and I sensed something about the client that might be the answer, so trusting my gut I asked a question I normally leave to later in the pitch. “How many other trainers are you currently seeing?” The client let out something of a sigh and said, “A few, although most of them are a waste of time, you trainers are all really the same aren’t you.” My inside voice was screaming in my ear, this was really a red rag moment for sure; I hate it if clients start a conversation this way, it is direct challenge and can be a tactic to put the sales person on the back foot. My instincts were buzzing though.
“It may appear on the surface that way, however perhaps you have ‘sales fatigue’ all those questions being asked and yet them not really listening, having to repeat yourself and going around in circles and everything sounding a bit ‘off the shelf’ and ‘by the numbers’? The client lit up. Yup that is part of it, it is just the endless questions, and I bet you do the same.”
Poor chap. Immediately I knew that it was about asking questions that actually got me where I needed to be quickly and without using too much time. I replied to him by saying I only had a few specific questions and that I would not waste his time. He agreed reluctantly, probably fearing the same, and yet by Question 3 he was singing like a bird. The outcome of this conversation was the client telling me that of all the people he had seen, not one trainer had asked any of these questions. I was alarmed as to me they are staple questions. He said that the questions they asked were not as direct or as specific to his business and that most of the trainers he saw just preferred to talk about themselves. Needless to say I was delighted to hear this, and I moved on to provide a proposal and win the business.
Reflecting on my notes, I thought I would share these with you, so that you can see the process I use to get me where I need to be quicker and also to qualify to you why these questions are so important. As you read on you will see the context is around training, however as you will see, you can change the context to whatever industry you are in and get the same quality answers.
The Magnificent SerialTrainer7 Questions
Question 1 – tell me why are we doing this training?
Question 2 – what are the specific outcomes you looking to achieve?
Question 3 – specifically when are you anticipating the training happening?
Question 4 – how does the team preferred to be trained?
Question 5 – describe how will you be measuring the effectiveness of the training?
Question 6 – how much money have you allocated to the training?
Question 7- what will happen if you do not go ahead and do the training?
When we question clients, it is easy to come up with very wordy and lengthy questions, we are taught to ask open questions, which really can start to sound almost, like an interrogation. As a sales person and a sales trainer, I like to get where I am going quickly. I always start with the ‘why’ question, this uncovers the client’s belief around what is going on. ‘Why’ questions are often answered with ‘because’ this links to the personal belief and rationale. Next I want to link in outcomes and join it up with a ‘when’ question. ‘When’ questions relate to timescale, they are a way of moving things forward, managing expectations and are a closing question. Continuing with a ‘How’ question, ‘how’ questions uncover process, and the process I want to uncover is around the team and also on how measurement will happen. Next, another ‘how’, this time about money. I am not scared to address money and neither should any sales person, be assertive, ask the question and minimise the money based sales objection. Remember clients do not object on cost due to the expense, it is because they do not see the value, so brings lots of that. Finally a consequence based question, I like to know what will happen if what I am selling does not get bought. This uncovers the true needs, the risks the client perceives and it should relate to the ‘Why’ question at the start.
Finally a Question to Save Your Sales Life Two Different Ways
This question is not part of the front end questioning, this occurs just before you decide to start selling, it determines whether you have all of the facts or whether you have missed something. This question is quite simply…
“Is there anything else I need to know?” or “is their anything you think I may I have missed?” or “Is there anything else you might have forgotten to tell me at this stage?”
By asking what we call The Safety Net Question you get everything you need without having tripped up.
The second what to ask the Safety Net Question is when you have to contact or meet with a client on successive occasions, you simply start the conversation with a recap and then use it. Here is the example.
“The last time met we discussed X, Y, Z, and A, B and C. Has anything changed since we last spoke?”
By asking this question you demonstrate to the client that you have listened, you have remembered and that you have brought them right back up to speed. It also allows you to find out if anything has changed, which quite often it could have.
By asking these specific questions, we can to where we want to be very quickly, and then we can match what we offer to the answers, demonstrating listening and understanding. In turn this makes closing the sale so much easier, as you can be confident that you have the very best and very specific information. So stop asking lots of time wasting questions and get to where you need to be quicker, the client will love you for it and you will be the better sales person.
Thanks for reading and if your business needs effective and relevant sales training, delivered by someone who actually sells, then get in touch with me Simon@serialtrainer7.com