Francis Bacon said, “A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.”
Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Why” and “how” are words so important that they cannot be too often used.
Rudyard Kipling wrote, “I had six honest serving men-they taught me all I knew: Their names were Where and What and When-and Why and How and Who.”
Voltaire wrote, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
Leadership expert John Maxwell wrote a book called Good Leaders Ask Great Questions.
My friend Ryan Levesque wrote a book simply called, Ask and has built an entire business around asking the right questions of your customers so you can better market—and ultimately meet—their needs.
But if questions are so important, why do so many people get this wrong?
I’m sure you’ve struggled with asking the right questions of your customers before too.
Picture this: You’re sitting across from a potential client trying your best to pitch them on why they should buy your idea, product, or service. You’ve done your research and you feel prepared, but when you start talking you can sense them fading.
So you have two choices.
You can pack it up and call it a loss.
Or you can learn to ask three types of questions that will lead to a sale.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
The 3 Types of Questions You Must Ask Your Customers
There are three basic types of questions that allow you to discover the needs and wants of your clients and potential customers. I first learned these types of questions from my sales mentor, Zig Ziglar.
All questions — whether emotional or logical — fall into one of these three categories.
1. The Open-door Question
Open-door questions allow the person being questioned to go wherever they want with their response. You want them to give them room to move freely in the areas of their choosing.
With the open door question, the wants, needs, desires, ideas, and opinions of the prospect are the focal points. Open-door questions are easy to answer because you are showing a sincere interest in your customer and they can sense it.
These questions are identified as the who, what, where, when, how, and why questions.
They may also begin with the phrases:
- “What do you think about —?”
- “How do you feel about —?”
- “What is your biggest concern about —?”
A word of caution here: don’t supply the answers!
When you ask open-door questions, there will often be a moment of silence.
A pause is often necessary for the person to form an insightful and intelligent response to your questions. Learn to be still in that silence and let the customer respond.
2. The Closed-door Question.
If an open-door question is designed to allow the prospect to move freely wherever their thoughts take them, then the closed-door question is designed to keep them in a certain area for clarification or embellishment.
Closed-door questions begin with phrases like:
- “Would you tell me more about this—?”
- “That’s fascinating — what do you mean by that—?”
- “What is your biggest challenge when it comes to—?”
3. The Yes or No question.
This type of question demands a direct response.
One very important point: only use this question when you already know the answer.
Yes or no questions begin with phrases like:
- Does everything I’ve explained so far make sense to you?
- Does this price seem fair?
- Would you like to go ahead and place the order now?
The danger of this kind of question is that if it is overused, it may be perceived as patronizing.
Yes or no questions allow you to test the waters and check on your progress in the sales process and see if you are getting buy-in from the customer based on the response.
Assume That You Know Nothing and Then Be Ready to Learn
The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing. – Socrates
Learning to ask questions can be a bit of a challenge for some people.
Most salespeople are internally motivated, self-starters who thrive on having an answer for any question or objection that comes their way.
But learning to assume that you know nothing about your customer sets the stage for a mutually beneficial relationship. You learn exactly what your customer needs and they learn exactly how you can meet those needs.
As you harness the power of questions in your sales relationships you’ll become more than just another salesperson trying to make a buck.
You’ll become an invaluable asset—an “assistant buyer,”—and you’ll make more money along the way.
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