How many of us start spewing a laundry list of all we can do when asked the question, “What do you do?” Many clients I work provide a wide variety of services and too often confuse themselves as to what is right to offer in any given situation. People seek to categorize and understand. When we list a litany of services or solutions, we immediately present confusion in a prospect’s mind, and a confused mind never buys. The key is to provide clarity and focus for the prospect, and you do that by asking questions.
We are programmed from an early age to answer a question posed to us. Yet one of the keys to success in sales is to break yourself of the habit and to use that knowledge in your conversations. Asking questions is what allows you to garner the information you need to position yourself and your services as the solution to a prospect’s problem (assuming you do actually have a solution to the problem.)
One client had the opportunity to meet with the management team of a large organization. It was an opportunity to build a long-term and lucrative engagement. There was only one problem. Questions were not asked in advance to understand who is attending the meeting, what their concerns may be, and how a decision to proceed will be made. Instead, my client went into the meeting and talked about all the things his company could do and all the ways they could work together. The meeting ended with no tangible outcomes or next step and my client wondering what went wrong (this was before we started working together).
Asking questions accomplishes two goals. One, you bring specificity and focus to the prospect and to your conversation. Two, you can be creative in designing a solution. When asked what do you do, it’s perfectly acceptable to say something like, “Well that depends. Let me ask you a few questions before I answer that question.” Or, “I help business owners (or whomever). Let’s talk a bit further to help me understand more about your situation and see if there’s a fit.” The prospect will appreciate that you aren’t just seeking to sell something, and that you want to hear in their own words about the challenges being faced. The more information you can gather, the more informed your answer. Their answers, by the way, also give you market feedback allowing you to be ahead of the curve in filling a need.
Some of my favorite discovery questions include:
What would you say is the biggest challenge facing your business right now?
How long have you had that challenge?
What’s stopped you from fixing it in the past?
What has changed that makes you want to fix it now?
How committed are you to resolving the challenge?
What happens if you don’t fix the problem?
Obviously these require some amending to suit your specific service or product offering. The key is to have the prospect speak to the challenge and the pain being caused. Helping bring light to their pain point, and having the prospect articulate it in her own words gives you the information you need to position yourself as the credible solution provider.