You’ve been asked dumb questions. The answers are so obvious, you’re annoyed you have to waste your breath answering.
You’ve also been asked questions that don’t fit the context of your conversation. You wonder, “Where did that come from?”
And yet, you’ve also been asked some great questions. You stop and think, “Wow! Thanks for asking that!” You know the person is really listening and they value your response.
We’ve all been in each of these situations — both on the asking and answering side of the conversation. As you meet with buyers, you want your conversation to set you apart. That means you need to ask really great questions — not the ones that leave them confused or annoyed.
Where do these kinds of questions come from?
Great questions come from listening.
Your best questions are not the ones you plan before a conversation — you can’t just line up a question before a conversation, try to find a spot to shove it in, and expect it to work.
Your best questions come from listening in the moment and trying to understand what’s going on.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to prepare ahead of time.
You need to have a list of go-to questions that you ask in the right situations. Specifically, you need to have qualifying questions planned and ready to use as you need them.
Why Qualifying Questions Matter
As an industry, we’re weakest in our qualifying questions. Most of us are pretty good about asking scope-of-work questions like, “What’s the due date?”
But we’re not as good at finding out if a prospect is the right fit for our company. We need to refine our ability to find out:
- If we’re talking to the right buyer
- If they’re buying what we’re selling
- If we’ll work well together
This what qualifying questions help us determine.
If you don’t qualify your prospects, you run the risk of two tough situations:
- You write a lot of empty proposals that you never win and don’t get feedback on — wasting resources on dead-end prospects.
- Even worse, you get bad business.
If you ask your prospects insightful qualifying questions, you guard against this. You’re more likely to ask the questions that help you determine if this business relationship is meant to be… or not.
What NOT To Ask
The best questions call for responses that provide you new, helpful information. You’re seeking to find out more about the prospect to determine if you’re a good match. That means you’re NOT asking two specific types of questions:
1. Do not ask questions with an obvious answer.
Don’t waste your time (or your client’s time) by asking the obvious. You insult them and make yourself look bad.
Avoid questions like, “Is budget important to you?” Of course it is. The answer is obvious.
If it’s a duh question, don’t ask it.
2. Do not ask binary questions.
Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Qualifying questions do not have to be direct.
Instead, leave room for your prospect to expand.
How to Ask Great Qualifying Questions
Great qualifying questions give the other person room to respond. They open the flow of conversation so you can gather more information, learn about your prospect, and make a good decision about moving forward.
The best qualifying questions are open-ended.
Ask questions like, “What makes an event successful in the eyes of your organization?”
This is open-ended. And it’s not shallow — there are some deep answers there. As they answer, you’re listening for clues to help you frame your next question.
Qualifying questions also allow you to figure out if you’re talking to the right person about a project. We’ve all been guilty of sending a non-decision maker out to gather a few quotes a talk to suppliers. Part of pitching a deal is finding out who you’re talking to.
When you’re not sure of someone’s role, assume you’re talking to a decision maker and ask qualifying questions like these:
- “In addition to you, who in your organization will decide who’s the right supplier for your needs?”
- “Who in your organization will work with my team to develop a proposal for your event/project?”
These are open-ended questions that give you the chance to learn more about them. It doesn’t matter how they answer, as long as you’re listening. There are no wrong answers to qualifying questions — it’s a way to gather information to help you understand more about the buyer and what to do next.
Smarter Questions = Better Clients
Don’t fall into the trap of asking useless questions.
Smarter questions come from good listening. The only way to ask a good question is to shut your mouth and listen for a while.
Qualifying questions that allow for open-ended answers help you determine how to best meet the needs of the buyer — and if they’re a good fit with your business. As you meet with buyers, ask the questions that really make a difference in your working relationship.
All it takes is a little planning and a lot of listening.
Plus, we can help each other out.
Share your best qualifying questions in the comments below. Then, make a list of the questions that may work for you to keep as a resource.
The next time you’re meeting with a buyer, see if one of these questions can open the door to learning more about your prospect and if they’re the right client for you.