Powerful questions have impact – 6 strategies for better sales questions

Show me a successful (or super-successful) sales person and I’ll show you someone who has developed and who uses powerful questions.

Think of someone you know who is at the top of the sales profession. Now consider how good they are at asking incisive and powerful questions.

Now look at a selection of marketing material from market leaders. Chances are a lot of those have implicit questions embedded in their headlines.”Read more…. is implicitly ‘Would you like to read more?

“Discover….  can mean “We’ll answer the questions you’ve not even thought of yet!

“6 strategies for better questions” to some people it could mean ‘Do you really want to risk missing out on these…..

All Buying starts with a question

Did your visit to this page start with a question?

  • Was it a question you entered into a Search Engine like Google?
  • Or a link from a Social Media update, a LinkedIn status update or a Tweet that contained a question?
  • Or the subject line of an email that took the form of a question?

Many activities and events in the marketing and sales process start with questions.

And, just as buyers will ask you questions so you too can, and should, ask buyers questions. And the more powerful your questions the better the answers you will receive, the more they will respect you, and the more influence you will gain.

Would you like SIX strategies for better marketing and sales questions?

You see – another question.

So how do you feel now?


Have I tweaked your emotions yet?

Have I earned the right to proceed?

Do you feel that there will be value in spending another minute or two reading on?

I may be labouring the point, but at least you’re still reading …

Before I reveal the SIX strategies there are a TWO foundations to cover.

Earn the right to ask questions

Before people spend time answering questions, revealing information that may be sensitive and feelings that may make them feel vulnerable they need to have a degree of trust in the person or organisation asking the questions.

I remember a phrase from years ago that went along the lines of: ‘I don’t know who you are, who you do business with, what your products or services are or what they’ll do for me, or your company values and financial standing. Now, what did you want to ask me?’

As an individual or company we need to quickly earn sufficient right to ask the initial questions, and then ratchet forward, earn more right, ask more questions. This doesn’t mean launching into a standard ‘company overview presentation’ and initially this is where the ‘elevator pitch’ or 90 second overview is so essential. Follow that with a key question or two and the process is underway.

Powerful Questions – Open/Closed and Six friends

You probably know already that there are two categories of questions: CLOSED and OPEN.

Closed or Open questions

Closed questions can be answered with a Yes or a No. They may start with words such as ‘Do/does/did…?’, ‘ or ‘Will/would…?’ or ‘Have/has…?’ This approach has it’s uses, such as ‘Can I ask you some questions so I understand your situation better?’, ‘Have I answered all your questions?’, ‘Do you have enough information to make a decision?’.

But the danger is that this question style may not gain the right response. For example, if you ask ‘Can you tell me the name of the person responsible for X?’ can be answered accurately with Yes, or No.

Open questions are ones that cannot be answered Yes or No. They are also a powerful way not just to gather information but also to probe for emotional feelings and reactions too.

SIX true and faithful servants, and the basis for Powerful Questions

  • Who – who is responsible for? who supplies you with x at the moment?
  • What – what’s working/ not working for you at the moment? what does success look like for you?
  • When – when does x leave/join? when will you decide  that you need to review x?
  • Where – where are you on the review / evaluation process? where do you stand on this topic/issue?
  • Why – why do you want to make these changes? why do you think he/she feels that way/made that decision?
  • How – how will these (market) changes affect your company/you? how will you respond to x?

They draw out information, such as names, places, numbers, goals, reasons and so on.

Do you see that they can also be a way to draw out emotions?

What situations have you been in this week where these could have been very handy?

Who do you know who is very good at asking powerful questions? Can you model yourself on them, or ask for some role-playing or to go on a joint call?

There are some suggested approaches in the Checklist which you can download at the end.

6 Strategies for Powerful Questions

Strategy 1 – Questions to attract people to you at the top of the funnel

Content marketing differs from sales collateral in many ways – one way is it often starts with a question, rather than going straight in with a statement.

Offering hints, tips, techniques, strategies, etc. implicitly is answering questions based on your knowledge and expertise.

The headline, such as “Six strategies for better marketing and sales questions (above) has the implied preface of ‘Would you like … which I’ve included for effect.

When used as the subject line of an email broadcast, a Tweet, a Status update and more then if the reader clicks through then implicitly they would, so you deduce their pain.

Can you think of 6 topics your prospects would appreciate information about, and work out an appropriate question phrase?

Strategy 2 – Use questions or diagnostic tools on your website landing pages

Show your knowledge to your potential customers, and create a lead capture mechanism by asking questions online, as a survey, poll or questionnaire.

It’s a great self-service tool, and you get additional information about the site visitor.

Here’s a great diagnostic tool example from Google.

Strategy 3 – Use questions in your lead nurture

During the process of warming up prospects you can use knowledge and experience from customers, again with the implied question.

An example is (Would you like to know…) How Customer X reduced costs / increased sales by 30%.

Strategy 4 – Use questions as part of the selling stage

This is the more traditional area for questions and questioning techniques. It encompassed everything from asking basic factual questions through to asking for the order. A useful technique that has been around for decades is SPIN, standing for:

  • Situation – gathering the essential facts
  • Problems – finding out about what’s not working
  • Implications – probing to find out how the issue/problem affects other area
  • Need pay-off – establishing the business, departmental and personal benefits of solving the problems.

Are you getting the hang of how better questioning techniques can help you increase sales, reduce sales costs, and enhance your career?

Strategy 5 – Use questions during delivery stage and on-boarding new customers

Asking for feedback from new customers is a great way to re-enforce their positive views about their purchase, and detect any issues early on.

This might be done online, as a customer satisfaction survey, or by phone, or even as review meetings for large deals.

Are you using customer surveys and monitoring customer satisfaction?

Strategy 6 – Asking for testimonials, case-studies and referrals

Asking for endorsements you can use as part of your marketing and selling activities is really powerful. It is a great way to encourage customers to affirm their purchase and go public about their decision.

Would you like some advanced questioning techniques as well?

If you are still with me, I have also prepared a checklist that you can use as part of your meeting preparation, covering some advanced questioning topics.

  • it itemises 5 key topics to cover as you prepare for a solution sales meeting – in order to ask better questions at the meeting
  • it provides 6 tips on how to ask questions that will uncover emotional information, and influence how someone feels in a way that will help your selling significantly.

You may also find it useful as part of your bid or proposal review process, to check whether you have gathered essential information, and then to check whether you have used it well in your proposal.

Drop me an email, to mark@wurlwind.co.uk and I’ll send you a copy of the Questioning Checklist.

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