In this blog post, fresh after talking about how to use your personality to convert more sales, Jon Baker explains the different types of sales questions for accountants (as well as lawyers and consultants)
Sales questions for accountants
Questions play a powerful role in getting prospective clients to sign up. Yet the common complaint I hear is “they just kept talking at me, trying to persuade me and didn’t listen“. Good sales questions will have a sting in the tail, the sting being it helps your prospective client focus on their needs so they want to buy from you. These sales questions can also be very effective for not just accountants, but lawyers and consultants too.
Sales questions: What are their purpose?
This will vary, depending on where you are in “the sale”, here’s 3 good reasons to be asking sales questions.
- Make your prospective client believe you care. Many business owners want to be heard and understood. If you focus on them by asking questions (not just listening to their monologue), it shows interest in their problems. You need to be interested, to find out as much information as you can about their problems and how they perceive them . That allows you to play their language back to them and help you solve their problems.
- Make them understand: Many prospective partners, and actual partners, when faced with tough business development targets can get desperate, or frustrated; then try to push prospects into signing up. It doesn’t work! If you ask questions to make your prospect think, they become more aware of the consequences of their actions (or inaction).
- It makes you listen, not talk! If you focus on active listening, by asking sales questions it will help you to focus on their needs, not your offer.
- Hypothetical questions: Putting them in a hypothetical situation helps you see what they’ll do. The answer may tell you how much they’ll spend, or their view on the size of the problem. These are good questions to ask at the return stage (see below). For example “If we were able to help you with this would you be interested”, or “What would you do if…”
- Closed questions: Closed questions allow your prospect to answer you with a yes or a no, but won’t get them to open up. Closed questions have value, in helping create focus when you’re trying to simplify a discussion.
- Open questions: Open questions require them to respond with a more complex answer. If your aim is to get them talking, ask open questions to trigger a wider response. These are especially useful at the information stage shown below. For example: “give me an example of xyz”
Understanding the way people buy will help you to ask the right sales questions and sell more.
A question framework to help you sell more
Here’s a simple structure for you to use, when selling and thinking about questions, it’s called IC2Rs.
- I – Information: Ask questions to gather information. These will be “open questions” which will help your prospect open up. These questions require them to respond with a relatively complex answer, not yes/ no. Don’t stay at this stage for too long however. Move on once you have the information you need.
- C – Concern: Ask questions that demonstrate concern. Probe for, and uncover the real concerns of the prospect. This gets some deeper and more specific answers than “information” questions. For example “How often does xyz happen”, or “What process do you use to track expenses”?
- R – Results: These are about consequences, results or implications of initial problem. Develop a chain from the initial concern, to the final result (something worthy of action). A result question could be “What impact does that have on your profitability”? These can leave people feeling low, so provide positive closure, with Return questions.
- R – Return: These help build the value of the solution in the prospect’s mind. Focus on getting the prospect to state the benefits seen from solving the (enlarged) problem. “How important is it to you to solve XYZ”. Warning: Don’t ask return questions about something where you cannot meet the need.