Impacting Questions

Shape Shape Shape Shape

Earlier this month I wrote a post on the Blog version of The Pipeline, titled “Questioning The Path You Are On”, which looked at a way to change the direction of a cold call before it hit its inevitable conclusion of no engagement. I looked at how Impact Questions, a form of closed ended questions, can help change the direction and outcome of a call. As highlighted at the end of the piece, here we want to look at two specific ways to leverage Impact Questions in the face of objections.

Some objections prospects throw at us are a challenge to manage because they are not based on specifics relating to their objectives, or attributes of a specific offering. They are presented differently, in ways that may distract sellers, and allow the prospect to end the call and go back to work. Sad, cause often had the objection been handled the right way, the conversation would have continued and led to engagement.

Fighting Fire With Fire

At times, rather than throwing a straight objection at a seller, prospects will ask a question they know will trip up the seller. Remember they have had a lot of practice, 6,000 or so if they have been in their role for five year, they have their tricks down.

One favourite practice is to throw what at first seems like a plausible question at the seller. The problem is their intent is not always to gain knowledge but to create an opportunity to end the call. Unprepared sellers innocently try to deal with the question, but set the prospect up for the ending they were looking for. One example is they will ask questions around price, seems like a positive, but if not handled right, the end is nigh. Any hesitation or unnecessary pause will lead to the prospect’s desired outcome, disengagement.

There are a couple of things at work here. One is the importance of ensuring that you “recover the question”, why, because he who asks the question is in control of the conversation. This is just a reality of the dynamics of conversation.

Most sellers will answer the question, some well, especially if pricing is straight forward “X dollars per pound”, straight and to the point which is good. But if it is just left there, social norms kick in, and the buyer will ask the next question, seller answers. All seems good, but the goal of a prospecting call is to have mutually agreed engagement. Often these drawn-out calls end up with a lot of information exchanged, but no engagement. Much of the discussion would have led to different, more positive results, had they taken place once the prospect committed to engage, either in a meeting, a call, or webinar meeting.

The alternative is to leverage another social norm, an accepted speaking practice. In our society, when you answered a question, you earn the write one in return.

Person 1: What do you do for a living?

Person 2: I am a lawyer.

Person 2: What do you do?

By not stopping with “lawyer”, you regain the “question”, and control of the flow.

So when asked how much, do give an answer, a realistic answer that does not sound like you are waffling, like saying something silly and weak like: “It depends…”; or “well Mr./Mrs./Ms./, this is way too early to be able to…”. That may in fact be the right answer, but most often in a face to face meeting, the dynamics of a cold call are different. If you sell anything other than a commodity, or if all your sales are made on the phone in ten minutes or less, the price question by a buyer two minutes into a first call is an OBJECTION, not a BUYING SIGNAL. Provide a response that will be consistent with what may in fact be the cost. But as soon as you’ve answered that question, immediately, don’t stop to gauge response, immediately follow up with an Impact Question. Yes a question with either a yes or a no. It’s OK, because the goal is to be able to leverage their answer as the reason to meet.

(Ignoring the introduction that comes before the question, a crucial component of success)

Prospect: Can you give me an idea of the cost?

Seller: Without knowing the specifics, there may be a bit of difference, but the last five banks we worked with it was roughly $2,000 per participant; – no stop

Seller: I am curious, are you doing anything specific to help your reps set more appointments?

Based on your product you can go with:

Do you have a document management strategy?

Do you have an expense management system in place?

Do you outsource?

Have you ever…

Did you have your _________ reviewed in the last three months?

Do you have a mobile workforce?

Have you ever used a broker?

Do you _______ more than twice a week/month/year?

You can use any number, but it has to be, a Closed Ended Question, yes/no! Don’t make the mistake of asking how they “feel about”, “think of”, or anything that takes away from the issue at hand, engagement!

There are really only two answers they can provide, Yes or NO; some pranksters or confused souls will say “I’ve been planning to…”, but that’s not doing. Either a Yes or a No, gives me the perfect opportunity to tee up the engagement. This works in almost all situations, with most questions: the “Why you?” question, tell them why you, in specific terms, not something soft they hear on every other call. Use specific client outcomes you and/or your company have delivered: “we are the only ones who”, insert outcomes you have researched will resonate with the role. “Acme Inc. had a 5% reduction in this process/cost/”, etc. You need to develop an Impact Question or two for each personas that come up regularly.

I know some of you are thinking “well what if I can’t give specific price and it really does depend?” Not uncommon, but still very workable. The goal is to satisfy the clients curiosity, their desire to get their head around what is involved as a means of deciding if they want to engage. You can get a lot more specific than depends by responding with another finance based response, pay back. You can respond:
“Not sure about some of the specifics, but all our clients realize a payback between 9 to 12 months”; provide a very brief example: “Blacks saw a 10% increase in margins/turnover/days without accidents…
Do you currently …. (outsource, import, export, … anything that relates to the topic, and can be answered with yes or a no. Once they answer, don’t intellectualize, debate, or even think about it, use their response as the reason to meet.

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