In selling, questions play a central role. They’re the sales pro’s Swiss Army knife. You’ve got a multi-faceted tool that you can employ in almost any situation.
Questions are the tools you use to ask for or about anything. You use questions to set up a meeting with a prospect, to ask for relevant sales information, to ask prospects why they’re hesitating to buy, and ultimately to ask for the order and close the deal.
Questions and probes serve lots of different functions in the process of selling. If I had to pick the most strategic uses I’d offer these three:
- Show people you’re interested in their business
- Engage prospects
- Uncover useful sales intel and buying attitudes
Skillful questioning will help you learn what values are most important to each prospect. People have to feel some dissatisfaction or “pain” with their current vendor, service or product before they’ll want to make a change. Maybe their ten year-old car is costing too much in repairs, their janitorial service is unreliable, or the caterer they used for last year’s event charges more than this year’s budget permits.
Skillful questioning will reveal that pain. Sometimes it may be as simple as asking, “What is it that you don’t like about your current insurance setup?” But more often you’ve got to probe a little to get at the unsatisfactory stuff the prospect may not even be completely aware of.
Here are four queries that will get prospects thinking about deficits with their current insurance providers — and the implied advantages you offer to solve those problems. They go even further, though: by referring to companies with similar concerns, they show prospects that you know their field. And the tone of each question tells the prospect that you care about providing coverage and services which will more than satisfy their needs.
“A lot of the contractors we talk to are concerned about quick turnaround on bonds and certificates of insurance. Is that an issue for your operation?”
“Many of the manufacturers we talk to tell us they feel they’re paying too much for their workers’ comp coverage. Is that an issue for you too?”
“The truckers and transportation companies we meet with say they wished their insurance agents stepped up more often to help adjudicate claims. Is that an issue for you guys?”
“Often we hear companies your size say they would really like to be getting more loss-control support from their agents. Is that true for you as well?”