There’s a lot riding on each sales call you make. These conversations can, of course, make or break a deal, but they’re also key to shaping relationships and laying the groundwork for future interactions and partnerships.
Most salespeople focus on what they’ll tell their prospect during the call, and less on what questions they’ll ask. But the latter is equally, if not more important. Asking the right questions during a sales call will build mutual trust and understanding, keep you from pursuing an impossible deal, and leave you feeling like you’ve gained something from each and every call.
Here are five questions you should ask during every sales call, to maximize your relationship-building and increase your odds of selling.
How much time do we have for this call? Is 15 minutes fair?
A prospect will very quickly shut you down if they feel you’re about to embark on a 30-minute pitch when they have a meeting with their boss in 15. Take a moment early in the conversation to establish how much time you’ll have. This will put your prospect at ease and help you tailor your pitch. Don’t be greedy; ask for 15 minutes and take it from there. Once you’ve established how long the conversation will be, tailor your pitch accordingly.
Are you experiencing challenges with _____, due to ____ ? We’ve noticed that several of our clients are having the same issue.
If you have existing clients working in similar arenas as your prospect, pull them in as an example. Ask your prospect if they’re experiencing similar challenges. This shows you’re knowledgeable about their world and are aware of the issues at hand. Maybe they are experiencing the same problem, maybe they aren’t, but your specific question will likely push them to open up about their business.
What is your company’s decision-making process for a partnership like this?
You need to know how a deal may unfold with your prospect and if you’re speaking with the person who can either make the decision or be an effective champion of your solution. Are they involved with spending? Do they provide recommendations to senior management? Can they sign on the dotted line themselves? Their response about the decision-making process will help you decide how to proceed or, if they seem to be hesitating, how to move on.
Are there any issues or challenges that might get in the way of this partnership that I need to know about? What do you need to make it work?
There might be situations and limitations that are out of your prospect’s control, no matter how great your rapport is or how well your solution fits the bill. Establish if there are budget restrictions, existing contract limitations or timing issues that might get in the way of the sale. This will speed you up to a decisive “no” or allow you to make note of when it would be better to reach out again. There may be some factors that you can adjust; if your proposal is out of their budget, you can decide whether to make adjustments.
I’m happy to put something together for you, but can you please be honest with me if and when you know it definitely won’t be a fit?
Create a verbal contract that makes it clear that you won’t be offended by “no,” and that a lengthy sales process with no resolution would be a much more disappointing result. By placing a slight amount of pressure on the prospect to hold up their end of the agreement, you’re helping to create a relationship that feels equal.