When it comes to creative messaging, how you say things is important, but so is what you say.
A good seller asks questions of the prospect. But a direct line of questioning can seem like an inquisition or an interrogation, if you’re not careful. It’s far more beneficial to ask questions in an interview format, much like you would interview a celebrity or sports hero.
“Closed questions,” also known as binary questions, are helpful to qualify a prospect and to close the sale. Binary questions can only be answered “yes” or “no.”
Ask direct questions such as, “Do you have money to buy my product?” to qualify a prospect and “Would you like to pay for this today?” to seal the deal. Closed questions begin with words such as would you, could you, will you, do you and have you.
“Open questions” or non-binary questions, on the other hand, promote dialogue and enrich conversation. Verbiage such as, “What do you like most about the model you’re using now?” and “Please tell me a little about yourself” are impossible to answer with a “yes” or “no.” Open questions begin with words such as “what” and “why” and “tell me more.”
Warning: If you ask too many why questions you might be perceived as a pest. Here’s a list to help you with the art of the question:
- How are you? (Oops! On cold calls, this question telegraphs that you are a salesperson.)
- May I visit you to give a presentation? (Nobody I know looks forward to sales presentations. We’ve seen too many bad ones.)
- Do you know someone else that can use our services? (Closed questions elicit short, negative responses. The default answer to this question is “no.”)
- I appreciate your time, Mr. Prospect. What kinds of problems are you having with your current vacuum cleaner? (Skip the generic health-related questions so you can identify the problem and qualify the prospect.)
- Do you have time to talk next week? (Less formal, less pressure, more productive.)
- Who else do you know that can use our services? (I like asking for the names of two people.)
I teach salespeople to “always ask one more question” when interviewing prospects.
This is easier to do if you prepare a list of questions in advance of the conversation.
Of course, you have to end the conversation sometime, but asking one more question can prolong interaction, allowing you to gather more valuable information before staging the close.