Picture this scenario:
Imagine you are the Founder and CEO of a tech company and have an idea for a new product.
You’re smart, so instead of spending a lot of time, energy and money developing a new product without knowing if anyone will ever buy it, you decide to talk to your prospective customers and find out if they really need your product before you build it.
But what do you say in that first customer conversation? How do you open the conversation?
How do you establish yourself as a person of influence before you ever talk about your product?
How do you elicit your prospective customers’ goals or problems as they relate to your product?
And how do you help your prospective customer understand the impact or value of your product in the context of their goal?
And if you’re selling your product, how do you link your product to the achievement of your prospective customers’ goals or to the solving of their problem without being seen as a “pushy salesman?”
Most entrepreneurs and salespeople lead with their product features, they lead with their service capabilities and they lead with presentations, persuasion and objection handling.
But that is a mistake.
So what should you do instead?
Would it surprise you to learn you should lead with questions. But not the standard questions that most salespeople spray and pray.
Don’t ask tired, old cliche questions like “What keeps you up at night?”
Or silly questions like “If I had a magic wand…”
Or pushy questions like “Are you the decision maker?”
Asking those types of questions to a sophisticated buyer will just make you look like an amateur.
Remember, you build credibility with high level buyers with thoughtful, informed questions that demonstrate your expertise.
So what kind of questions should you ask?
I use a special framework and method I created for asking questions that advanced the sale in a conversational manner.
The 5 most important questions to ask are:
1. Goal Questions: Goal Questions help you understand the objective the buyer wants to achieve, the opportunity the prospective customer wants to capture. the result the buyer wants to experience, or the problem the buyer wants to solve.
Why is this important?
Simple. No goal, no sale. There’s no way around it. No goal, no sale.
“No goal, no sale”
2. What Questions: What Questions help you gain clarity about what the buyer means. How many times have you mis-understood what someone meant because you didn’t ask for definition or clarification?
What Questions also help you uncover metrics so you know how the buyer measures success.
3. Why Questions: Why Questions help you understand what is driving the buyer’s need to achieve their goal. Is it their strategy? Is it the competition? Is it a market change or disruption? If their goal is problem-based, what’s their evidence they have a problem? What’s letting them know they need a solution
It’s important to know the motivation because that drives the need for a solution.
4. Go/Stop Questions: Go/Stop Questions help us document the buyer’s requirements for moving forward with our product and uncover potential threats that could stop the buyer from implementing our product.
What are the resources, skills and the beliefs needed for the buyer to achieve their goal? This can be features, functionality, time frame, money, people, skills, attitudes, beliefs, and the decision making process. Anything needed to help the buyer be successful.
We also need to know what threatens to prevent the buyer from achieving their goal. Is it passing a technical evaluation? Getting Board Approval for the purchase? A budget issue? A timeline or deadline? Not having the right skills? Not having the bench strength on staff to implement your solution? Needing to get company-wide buy-in before adopting your solution?
5. Impact Questions: Most new, innovative products or services get don’t get adopted right away. They get stuck in “nice to have” mode and moved to the back burner.
In terms of importance and urgency, most new products are not “must haves.” To move your product or service from the back burner to the front burner, from “nice to have” to “must have,” we need to define and calculate the value of achieving the buyer’s goal or solving the buyer’s problem.
“Impact Questions move your product from “nice to have” to “must have”
Calculating the value can be as simple as knowing the cost savings or the increase in revenue from implementing your product or service. The impact can be financial. It can be tangible or it can be intangible. It can be peripheral or tangential. It can be personal or it can be professional.
We need to know what the Impact is for cost justification. We need it for ROI. We need it to show the value of our solution and we need to annualize the value of the impact over time as the benefits continue to accrue over the life of our solution.
Solution Linking Questions: When you understand the buyer goal, the motivation driving the goal, the metrics used to measure success, the requirements and roadblocks to moving forward and the impact or value of achieving the goal, you can link almost any reasonable solution to the achievement of the buyer’s goal.
You know what your prospective buyer wants and needs and all you have to do is lead your buyer to the conclusion that your solution helps them get it.
So how do you link your product to the achievement of your buyer’s goal or to the solving of their problem?
Would you believe that you do it with Solution Linking questions?
Not statements. Not assertions. Not product claims. Just Solution Linking Questions. And best of all, your Solution Linking Questions don’t trigger sales resistance and you don’t look like a “pushy salesman.”
Solution Linking Questions are the easiest way to create a link in the buyer’s mind from their goal to your product and to get your prospective customer to tell you why your solution is valuable to them.
So far, you’ve learned the 6 most important questions to ask a prospective buyer during your first conversation:
- Goal Questions so that you understand what the buyer wants to achieve.
- What Questions so that you and the buyer have clarity and metrics so you understand how the buyer measures success.
- Why Questions so you know what’s letting the buyer know they need a solution and what is driving the need to achieve the goal.
- Go/Stop Questions so you are aware of the Buyer’s requirements for moving forward and what might prevent the buyer from implementing your product.
- Impact Questions so you and the buyer can calculate impact or the value over time.
- Solution Linking Questions to link your product to the achievement of your buyer’s goal.
You are really starting to get this.
If you want to get good at leading customer conversations that get orders, you need to write out these questions in the context of your product or service with your ideal customer in mind.
Like any new skill, it takes practice. So you’ve got to put in the work. And as you practice, and as you implement these questions in your discussions with buyers, you’ll become as good as or better than 70% of the entrepreneurs and salespeople at leading customer conversations that get orders… even if you hate selling.
To help you take these skills even deeper so that selling your new, innovative products and services becomes easier and more natural for both you and your prospective customer, I will be publishing follow-up posts to help you create these questions for your business.
If you don’t want to wait for these posts and want to the jump to the front of the line and get started right away, I’ve created an Executive Brief that is yours to download free of charge in exchange for your email address.
To get your free Executive Brief go to