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June 22, 2016

How to Sell to Businesses With These 4 Probing Questions

Business

Jeff Cochran

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The questions you ask during a sales pitch or negotiation can make or break your chance of success. Learning which questions to ask can give you and your sales team a better likelihood of getting the response you want. Asking probing questions during a negotiation is the most effective way to gain momentum, as it gives you the opportunity to learn more about your client and pitch to him or her in a way that hits home.

  1. Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are infinitely more powerful than closed questions. “Are you looking for a new supplier?” results in a situation wherein the client can only answer “yes” or “no.” It leaves no room for the detailed answer you need to make headway with a sale. “What are you looking for in a new supplier?” gives you room to push a sale even if the client didn’t know he or she needed a new supplier.

  1. Open Opportunity Questions

It’s important for you to give potential clients a say during a sales pitch. Although your company is the one doing the pitching, letting a client speak about what they want from you will let them know you’re listening and responding to their needs. Ask questions such as, “What do you think of this solution?” instead of “How about this solution?” to encourage them to give a detailed response. Listen to every part of the response, and use the information to your advantage.

  1. Loaded Questions

If you can skillfully execute a loaded question, it can subtly push potential clients in the desired direction. Ask questions that prompt certain responses, such as “How are you liking your current supplier?” Almost imperceptibly, you’re implying that there may be something wrong with your potential client’s current supplier. If you instead say, “Tell me how you like your new supplier,” you’re pushing the client towards a more positive response—leaving less room for you to show them how you’d be a better fit.

  1. Thought-Provoking Questions

We’ve saved the most important category for last: thought-provoking questions. Questions about your potential client’s thought process are probing enough to gauge insight into a person without prying. Ask a client to provide more detail about his or her process, or ask how he or she reached a certain conclusion. Let the client know you’re truly interested in what he or she has to say, and listen to his or her response carefully. When you ask deep, probing questions during a sales pitch, you establish yourself as an expert negotiator.

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