Being regarded as a strategic business partner requires fully understanding the challenges of your potential customer. The bottom line is that you don’t know everything there is to know about your prospect, regardless of the research you’ve done before the sales call. Discovering their specific pain points will allow you to better craft your solution, and letting them do most of the talking will give the meeting a more consultative feel.

Find the answers you need in order to offer the right solution by asking these three types of open-ended sales questions.

1) Needs-Based Questions

You should be well-educated on your prospect before your initial sales call, but you still have a lot to learn. Focus on asking questions that pinpoint the dominant buying motivations, which include needs but also have to do with desires, feelings, tastes, etc.

Determine what needs your product fills for your buyer in order to create a list of needs-based questions before the sales call. Once you have listed these needs, work backwards, and figure out what you would have to ask your prospect to find out if this particular issue matters to them. As you ask each question, let them do the talking and really listen to their replies (rather than thinking about what you’ll ask next).

2) Benefit-Driven Questions

Before you start rattling off all the features that your product or solution offers you need to be sure that your buyer’s unique situation calls for the features that drive the benefits. When you are able to focus on selling benefits rather than features, you spotlight your customer and his or her unique needs.

Pose your questions around the challenges that your prospect is facing and which benefits would effectively provide a solution. You can develop a good set of benefit-driven questions before the call by listing every feature of your product, and then noting the corresponding benefit next to it. To determine benefits, just ask yourself, “What does feature X do for my customer?”

3) Objection-Based Questions

No sales call is going to feel consultative if you respond to objections with a rehearsed set of responses. Your goal is not to outmaneuver your prospect, but to learn how to ask questions that relate to the most common objections you’ll get.

Across every industry there are a few common objections that salespeople will hear:

  • “I want to think about it.”
  • “Your price is too high.”
  • “I need to talk to my boss.”

To counter these familiar hesitations, ask questions that relate to these objections, such as:

  • “What type of processes do you use for purchases like this?”
  • “What type of budget do you have in mind for a project like this?”

Getting to the root of these common objections off the bat will help you better execute your sales strategy, and avoid the more difficult roadblocks farther down the path.

Asking the right questions is necessary in order to provide your prospect with the solution they really want and need, but it’s not just the questions that are important. The way in which you listen and respond to your customer’s answers will determine whether they view you as a valuable business partner, or just another salesperson trying to hit their number. 

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Originally published Oct 20, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016

Topics:

Sales Qualification