RAB Research Archive

The Five Elements of a Productive Question



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 music and music videos, so quality was critical for him. We had an engaging conversation about technology and how we both have used it. 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 and our company by asking the right questions and listening.

You can be a salesperson, or you can be a business consultant who happens to sell. The choice is yours. Both work, of course, but you may find the consultant choice builds greater trust, deeper relationships and larger investments.

In Tom Hopkin's article Artful Questioning, he says, “champion salespeople, on the other hand, never give anyone the impression that they’re pushing them – for the simple reason that they never push. But they do lead. The Champion leads his or her buyers from the initial contact to happy involvement in owning the product or service by not talking all of the time, by listening most of the time and by asking artful questions.”

There are five elements to what we call thoughtful questions:

1. The question requires the client to do some productive thinking to formulate and answer it.

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 thoughtful questions, you can lead your prospects on a path of discovery. Thoughtful 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.

For me, every purchase process and decision become a teaching or learning opportunity. I shared with Lincoln how comfortable he made me feel with his questions. He said, “How can you sell anything to anyone if you don’t know what they are going to do with it or what they want their buying to do for them?

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

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB





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