7 Questions To Ask Prospective Clients

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There are plenty of sales questions we need to ask throughout the buying/selling process to help uncover a need, create urgency and gain commitment. Here are some I think are important and the reasons why:

What Are The Details Of The Decision-Making Process And Who Is Involved?

This might seem obvious, but, you’d be amazed at how many sales reps I see don’t ask this question or don’t get the details they need to understand the process. If you don’t have a clear understanding of the decision-making process and its stakeholders, then don’t be surprised when you have to talk to procurement, legal or other stakeholders. Also, be prepared to explain how understanding these details can help make the buying process more efficient since you may face objection.

What Are Your Top Business Priorities For The Upcoming Year?

Hopefully, you can do your research on the account and find this information out before meeting with them. If not, you need to understand the overall business priorities to ensure your solution aligns with them.

These are different than the priorities of the individual you are speaking with. These priorities are typically what drive all decisions throughout the year on what the company will invest in and what the executive decision makers will sign off on. If your solution does not align with their top business priorities, then the likelihood of you selling them anything drops significantly.

It's also important for you to be able to communicate your sales priorities to your prospect and your team. Check out CEB's top sales and marketing priorities of 2016 to learn about some of the most popular sales priorities.

What Are Your Top Priorities When Making This Decision?

This sales question is more directly related to the solution you are talking about and their evaluation criteria. By understanding their top three priorities when making this buying decision, you can then hold them accountable throughout the rest of the process if they stray or change for whatever reason. Including the priorities in a follow-up email and having the prospects confirm them wiil also help in holding them accountable.

Are You Ok With Telling Me No?

This seems like a weird one to ask, but, you’d be amazed at how effective it is. No one likes telling anyone no, which is why many times clients don’t even call us back. If you get it out of the way upfront and let them know you are OK with them telling you ‘no’, they are more likely to stop the process sooner. This can help you save a lot of time and get creative with your emails ("Remember when you told me you would tell me 'No'? Would like to know if we're at that point!")

Remember, the worst sin in sales is not to lose a deal, it’s to take a long time to lose the deal. You want to get to a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ as quickly as possible.

Not used to rejection? Read this Entrepreneur article on 7 ways to cope with rejection.

What’s the best way to communicate with you moving forward?

If you get someone on the phone and there are agreed upon next steps, you should ask this sales question. Different people like communicating in different ways. Some like email, some phone, some text, cell phone, etc. Don’t guess.

Usually, the answer to this one is going to be email. If it is, then, ask them how you can make your email stand out. Say something like, “I’m sure you get 100-200 e-mails a day like mine. What can I put in the subject line that will get you to open it and respond to me?” You should also try to get confirmation that they will respond to you in a timely manner. You need to set the communication ground rules and expectations upfront and let them know you respect their time as much as you do yours.

Will You Be My Champion?

Too often reps think they have a sales champion when they really have a coach or a fan. The two main characteristics we look for in true champions are:

1) They can steal budget
2) They agree to be your champion

This champion is someone who either has budget authority or heavy influence on the budget and sits at the table when the time comes to make the decision.

You can ask VPs of Sales this question directly since they understand what it means and will usually appreciate the approach. With other titles, you may have to rephrase and say something like “do you agree our solution is the best one to address your needs? If so, when the time comes to make the decision on this will you fight for me as hard as I would if I was there?”

What Happens If A Decision Isn’t Made?

You should ask this sales question every time. The #1 competitor we all have is “no decision.” If the answer to this question is not specific and it seems like they are not too concerned, then, I would not forecast the opportunity. However, if there will be a specific impact to them (ideally negative), then you know what you need to focus on.

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