I know that we have been taught not to answer a question with a question, but at times you have no other means of redirecting the conversation. One of my favourite type of questions, are Impact Questions. Questions that go to the heart of the issue, challenge the assumptions of the other party, and allow you to redirect the conversation in a way that it revolves around elements that allow the buyer to explore issues in a way they hadn’t considered.
For Impact Questions to have maximum effect they need to have two attributes. Individually each of these are a bit uncomfortable for many sellers, together, they can cause a bit of anxiety, at times fear, I have even seen smoke rising out of some people’s ears, no worries, usually pundits, not card carrying sales people.
The first element of discomfort, is that Impact Questions are by design Closed Ended, ooh, freaky, I know. Everyone thought closed ended questions went eradicated years ago, (same guys who though cold calling was dead), but no, alive and well, and doing fine in the right circumstance. Let me clear, I understand the power and purpose for Open Ended Questions, but as with most things in good selling, it is not one vs. the other, but which makes more sense for the specific situation.
There are some critical moments during the sale when only a closed ended question make sense. Where a limited set of answers creates clarity for both the buyer and seller, and allows them both to focus in critical issues rather than the universe! These points are usually during the initial prospecting call, when the buyer needs to see the opportunity for a new paradigm, and during negotiations, when it helps to re-establish the value agreed to earlier.
The other difficulty with Impact Questions, is that they have to be built around actual impacts you and your company have been able to deliver to clients in similar scenarios as the current buyer, where you have been able to help them achieve critical business objectives. While this may sound straight forward, it takes work.
Ask a team of sales people to tell you what specific impact they have had on their client’s objectives, and most have difficulty answering. They are usually accustomed to exploring things from the filter of what they do, and how their clients use their offering. Few focus on outcome, usually because few sell to those who benefit from the outcome, most will sell to the users or implementers. But regardless of who you are selling to, directing the discussion to outcomes will always be an advantage for all involved. But many buyers have been conditioned either by their role or by their experiences with sales people to look at and talk about “how” we get there, not the “what happens after we get there”, the impact; hence Impact Question.
Combining these two elements in a specific and practiced way, will allow you to avoid certain traps in the buying process, and direct the conversation to where you can actually deliver a win-win, helping both you and the client achieve key objectives.