Effective Questioning
CategoriesSales Consulting

Listening becomes extremely powerful when combined with the skill to ask the right questions.

By Effective Questioning, you can get the customer:

  1. Reveal his Real Needs
  2. Realize Ramifications of not solving the problem
  3. Realize the Value he will gain by solving the problem
  4. Feel a sense of urgency to solve the problem/opportunity

Questioning has a Sequence!

Questioning is effective in doing all these, if it’s in the right sequence. At a broad level, it’s useful to think of the questioning sequence as a funnel: Open Questions to start with >> Narrowing down with Probing Questions >>Narrow using Closed Questions

The sequence can be seen as B-S-C-R-V: Background -> Symptom -> Cause -> Ramification -> Value

The BSCRV Technique of asking questions is a more structured representation of the Funnel Technique in which you start with open questions and then get more and more specific. Towards the end, you ask questions which create a sense of urgency to go for a change

B-S-C-R-V Sequence

Background questions are to get the customer to open up. They lead to long, descriptive answers. Start with Open Questions: They build rapport! You will come across areas of concerns, dissatisfaction, new priorities, aspirations of management, etc.

Symptom questions are Closed Questions(generally Yes/No questions) that help pinpoint the real issue to be addressed:

  • For the customer: They help him recognize the problem he  faces
  • For you: They ensure you address problems of high importance for the

When you ask a Symptom Question, it provides the customer the opportunity to agree, disagree or change whatever he considers as the problem. This ensures a better understanding of the issue and prevents potential waste of time.

Cause Questions are open questions that help find out the customer’s opinions/ info from the customer on what could be causing the symptom. The customer has an in-depth understanding of his own business and can hence shed light on the possible causes. In addition, Cause Questions help us know what all steps he has already taken to resolve the issue and their success

Ramification Questions are Open Questions that reveal the possible impact or implication of not solving  the problem. They thus help your customer recognize that the problem is more serious than is apparent, thus creating a sense of urgency in the customer to address the problem, intensifying their desire to buy a solution

Value questions help the customer see the value they gain by addressing the problem faced. When your prospects tell you the desired results, they are, in effect, telling you what capabilities the solution must have. This is their ‘vision of value’. Value Questions help you create the right comparison of price and value later on. Open- ended value questions are more effective.

Using this Questioning Methodology: Using this methodology is a learning process. In order to learn, you must ask questions and listen. By focusing on what you want to learn, the questions will come naturally. The goal isn’t to ask the perfect question, it’s to learn about your prospects’ problems and how those problems affect their companies’ bottom line.

Selling or Persuading is an urgency-creating process. The more momentum you generate early in the buy-sell process, the greater the probability that a sale will be made. The questions you ask in your role as a sales professional will increase your prospects’ perception of the value of what you have to offer and, therefore, will reduce the number of objections you hear. This is objection prevention rather than objection handling. An increased perception of value, combined with fewer objections, spells sales success!

Present your Win – Win Solution, Persuasively!

There are at least 2 ways to present a solution/ your proposal:

  1. Writing
  2. Presentation

You probably use option 1 most often. But in the light of the learnings regarding the Preferred Thinking Modes – VAK- Visual / Auditory / Kinesthetic do you still think written proposal fulfills its objective? A Presentation is the way to go.

When you do a presentation of your proposal:

  • You can use all 3 modes– Visual (Slides), Auditory (Your speech) & Kinesthetic (The way you shake hands; you can hand-over the proposal docket, show samples, etc, etc)
  • You can get all people involved in the decision together
  • You get the opportunity to handle objections/ fears/ misinterpretations in person

Presenting a Proposal is easily the right thing to do. Many people dread Presentations. First, let me give you the good news. You have already learnt many things that are necessary to do a good presentation! How? Because, a Presentation is also a Conversation!

 The 4-step formula to ace any presentation:

Step 1: Tell them what you are going to tell them!

Step 2: Tell them!

Step 3: Tell them what you have told them!

Step 4: Ask for Action!

Structure of Breakthrough Presentations = Structure of Breakthrough Conversations! (Refer this post in case you haven’t already)

A. Before: 1. Prepare like a Professional
B. During
Beginning 2. Achieve Rapport with an Energizing Starting Statement (ESS)
3. Summarize Status
4. State the Presentation Objective (Tell them what you are going to tell them!)
Middle: 5.  Achieve Common Objective! (Tell them!)a.  Identify the Customer’s Needs through Questioning! b. Present a Win + Win Solution that meets the Customer’s needs c. Handle Customer Doubts/fears/objections d.Close with an Agreement
End: 6.  Summarize Agreements (Tell them what you have told them!)
7. An Energizing Ending Statement (EES) (Ask for Action!)
C. After: 8. Meet Commitments! Like a Professional!

You must structure the main body in a way that:

  • Make it easy for the audience to understand and
  • Logically directs the audience to your desired close

What should the body of your presentation include?

  • Summary:  The current situation: Where are we now?
  • Agenda: What do we want to achieve by this project?
  • Ramification of not resolving this issue
  • Offer: What our company can do for you?
  • Value: The likely outcomes and benefits of this project/proposal/solution
  • Action: How we plan to go about this project/proposal/solution?

Some Tips:

Tip 1: Meet as many members of the audience before the formal presentation starts and build rapport with them

Tip 2: Use all 3 Preferred Thinking Modes Each member of the audience should think: “This presentation has been created for me”

Tip 3: Keep it Short and Simple (KISS)

  • One major idea/message per slide
  • Avoid jargon the audience is unlikely to know; use jargon that they will know

Tip 4: Keep your slides readable & visually appealing

  • Use a simple slide layout; don’t be garish- Keep background non-distracting
  • Use maximum of 2 to 3 colors
  • Only bullets- not full sentences
  • Contrast the fonts with the background for readability
  • Use 24 size font for title and 20 for the text below (Slide should be readable from 15 feet)
  • Use Animation, Graphics, Clip Art for enhancement. Don’t overdo them to distraction!
  • When dealing with numbers, try to use graphs or other visual forms of showing data

Tip 5:  Add Spice!

People have high attention and interest level at the opening and at the close of the presentation. Attention level drops during the main body of the presentation. To sustain and keep alive the customer’s attention level, use appropriate humour, add spice to the presentation. Every few slides connect the sub story to the main story.

This is concludes Part-3 of our 4-Part Series on Powerfully Persuading Customers. The other parts are  1-Persuasion, 2-Building Rapport, and 4-Handle objections and Close