Questions are potent ways to engage prospects and foster conversations. But not all questions are useful, effective, or even appropriate. In fact, some kinds of questions will shut things down faster than a DEA agent busting a meth lab. If you’re using any of these, you might find that you’re off the phone and onto the next call before you can even clear your throat.
“What do you know about our agency?”
You’ve got a busy person on the phone, willing to give you a minute of their time because it might have value to their business. They probably don’t care about your agency, great markets, superior knowhow, and all the attentive service you’re ready to lavish on them. Don’t waste time talking about you, find out about their situation, their needs, their buying attitudes.
“How do you feel about the service you’re getting now?”
Here, at least, you’re talking about the prospects’ concerns, but this is too general and vague to be engaging. And it’s unlikely to get you any sales intel about their current broker relationship. Unless the prospect has a real problem and is dying to vent, you’re likely to get an equally vague reply, “Okay.”
“What will it take to earn your business?”
In principle, you do want to find out what it will take to win a new account. But asking bluntly at a very early stage in the sales process won’t get you there. This question is aggressive too because you’re putting the prospect on the spot, essentially demanding they provide you with a formula for success – the specific key to winning their heart and mind. Most likely they have no idea what it will take to earn their business. That’s what the sales process is about: gaining enough insight to understand what they need – practically, financially, and emotionally. You can’t learn that with a single question.
“If I could show you how you will (save money, lower your risk, enhance your coverage, etc.), would you be interested?”
Another aggressive, old school type probe that tries to manipulate the prospect into a commitment based on nothing more than a vague promise of magical solutions. If you’re using any tactics like this one – stop. Even if you succeed in getting someone to answer affirmatively, you’re creating a subtle conflict and trying to wedge the other person into a corner. People don’t like to be pushed into corners.
Garbage in – Garbage out
As the famous software maxim implies, asking the wrong questions gets you the wrong answers. Worse still, because the wrong questions can make people feel uncomfortable and evoke negative reactions, they create distance instead of connection.
In the pre-sales process, you’re conducting preliminary research to discover which target businesses will be receptive to an insurance review and to changing agents.
Selling isn’t about “telling.” You’ve got to tune into the other person, ask honest probing questions, and resist the temptation to “pitch” until you have an accurate understanding of how you might actually be able to help your prospect.