In my post about fact addiction I mentioned that to sell consultancy effectively you must go beyond facts and get clients to think, feel and act. I ended that post by saying stay tuned for more on this.
Well … I’ve now drawn together some ‘soft’ questions that can be used to lead clients through the sales process. These are questions that deliver the kind of influence you need to get clients emotionally engaged, properly qualify projects, and bring things to a close.
These questions take the form of conversational postulates1. My experience is that, used well, these questions elicit what might otherwise be considered insider information. I’m sharing them here because I was wondering how useful they might be to you? Perhaps you’ll try them on for size and see?
Here are 9 example questions to get you going:
Amplifying interest and engagement
- Do you already have ideas for which process changes will give the biggest improvements?
- I was wondering, could you think of all the ways this project will impact your work?
- Can you imagine, what will it be like when your staff make sales more effectively?
Pulling out the risks
- Have you considered how little permission your staff give themselves to ask clients for the business?
Finding out about budget and decision making
- I was wondering, could you share the budget for this programme?
- Can you make this decision independently?
Eliciting a close
- How well can you see this proposal working for you?
- Is everything in place for you to go ahead with this project?
- Would you feel comfortable making a commitment to this project now, while we are together?
These are powerful questions. You must ask them and then sit and let the client answer. This is about their thinking and ideas, not yours.
I find that consultants often get resistance when they attempt to qualify using BANT. These questions are much softer than direct interrogation and that resistance dissolves when we ask them – which is what we want.
BTW did you spot what I did with the headline and in paragraph 3?
1 Conversational postulates are an indirect way to give directives that may otherwise be met with resistance. For example you can say “tell me the time” which is directive, or “do you have the time?” which is a conversational postulate. Generally the answer won’t be literal “yes I can tell you the time” or “no I can’t tell you the time”. Most people will simply respond by telling you what time it is.
The bottom line:
Get real: When it comes down to qualification and closing you don’t have the answers. The client does.
Get prepared: Mentally role-play stepping into the client’s mind and see how the 9 questions work for you.
Get savvy: Now create and practice similar questions that will work for you.
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