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RAB Research Archive

The five elements of a productive question



Recently I purchased a new digital video camcorder. When shopping for technology, I do an obsessive amount of research. When I get to the store, it’s to answer the questions that I could not answer in my research.

The quest for the new video camera took me to 4 stores. Sadly, my research had given me greater product knowledge than that of most of the stores’ sales staff. The search was narrowed to two specific cameras. One cost $500; the other cost $850. At one store, I asked the salesperson why should I spend the extra $350 to get the higher-priced one? He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I wouldn’t.” Then he grabbed the product description cards in front of each camera and began reciting the details to me. He said, “They look pretty much the same to me; I’d get the cheaper one.” At another store I asked about the difference in quality and size of the processor between the two cameras. The seller responded, “Hmm, I’m not really sure, do you want me to get my manager?”

And then it happened…

Lincoln approached me with a smile and a spring in his step. The first words out of his mouth were, “What are you planning on doing with the camera?” The question caught me off guard because nobody had asked before. I explained we were going to use it for recording training videos, some in an office setting and some from live presentations. He asked about the kind of training and what kind of software I would use for post-production. He told me he creates his own music and music videos, so quality was really critical for him. We had an engaging conversation about technology and how we both have used it and would use it in the future. Lincoln knew all the answers to the questions I had, and knew a great deal more about video cameras than I did. He loved what he was doing and was very knowledgeable.

By asking the right questions, Lincoln connected with me on a level that none of the other sellers had. His questions required me to think. They also made the choice very clear as to which camera I needed. Lincoln didn’t sell me; he guided me to the decision that was best for me by asking the right questions and listening.

There are five elements of a Productive Question:

1. The question requires the client to do some productive thinking in order to formulate an answer.
2. The question forces the client to evaluate new information.
3. The question forces the client to draw from past experiences.
4. The question relates directly to the client’s current business situation.
5. The question relates directly to the client’s objectives.

By asking productive questions, you can lead your prospects on a path of discovery. Productive questions engage prospects at a whole new level. With their answers, prospects will reveal to you exactly what they need and how they like to buy.

We bought the $850 camera from Lincoln. After making the decision I shared with him that I was going to write an article about him. He nervously asked what he did wrong. I told him of my experience at the other stores and how he was the only one who asked me how I was going to use the camera. He said, “How can you sell anything to anyone if you don’t know what they are going to do with it? Don’t you have to ask questions so that you can make the recommendation that best meets the person’s needs?”

Words of wisdom from my new friend Lincoln and my new technology “go to” guy.

Think Big, Make Big Things Happen!

Jeff Schmidt is SVP/Professional Development at The Radio Advertising Bureau. You can reach him at: jschmidt@rab.com or 972-697-5675. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB





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