A few days ago I answered a question that was asked on Focus. The premise of the question is that your prospective client gives you only five minutes and what you would do with that very short time. The time is too short to do much, but there is a powerful way to create value for your dream client while influencing them in the direction of giving you more of their time.
The Power of a Great Question
One well-crafted and thoughtful question that penetrates through to the heart of your dream client’s business issues, challenges, problems, or opportunities is more powerful in both creating value and creating influence than any statement you might make.
Great questions create value in a number of ways.
First, if you have great questions that meet the criteria in the preceding paragraph, then you have demonstrated that you have the business acumen and the situational knowledge to understand what is important to the person of whom you are asking the question. Business acumen means you know how to help your dream client think about what is important to them in the way of getting results.
Second, by asking the question, you move the person to consider the answer to the question. If your question was around their primary challenges, problems, issues, or opportunities, you can move the person to consider those issues. The difficult issues are what they spend their time grappling with, and your willingness to go there means you may be the person they can trust to own and manage the outcome they need.
Third, their answer will more than likely elicit the area where you can make a difference. The threshold test for a prospect being a dream client is whether or not you can do jaw-dropping, breath-taking, earth-shattering work for them, and the answer will give you some clue as to where that kind of value will need to be created.
Finally, the fact that you are smart enough to ask the question is a strong indication that you have spent time thinking about and working on helping others with the issues that your question surfaces. Asking bigger and better questions helps your dream client to define their needs, to define their desired outcomes, and to consider how to move from where they are to some future state.
If you aren’t big enough to ask the big questions, the difficult question, it will be difficult for your dream client to believe you are big enough to help them with a better answer.
Getting Ready for the Opportunity to Ask
This is one of the reasons that the continual development of your business acumen is necessary to sell well and effectively. This is why business acumen is critical if you have any hope at all of selling to the C-suite.
Here’s how you can ready yourself to ask the big questions.
Make a Study of Your Dream Client’s Business: Every business is different and they often have very different constraints that prevent them from producing the outcomes they need. But your dream client’s businesses often have much in common—including some common problems and some common constraints.
Study their businesses. Learn about the common challenges and the common constraints. Great questions around these challenges and constraints are often enough to move you from the general problems to their specific challenges and constraints.
Make a List of Killer Questions: Make a list of questions that move right to the heart of these issues, challenges and constraints. There are implications that result from allowing the challenges and constraints to go on unaddressed. Questions that go right to those implications are bigger, better questions and they indicate that you have the business acumen necessary to be worth investing their time.
Ask: Can You Share More With Me? Your dream client may not have the time or inclination to listen to a pitch from an undereducated, low-business acumen salesperson, but they will make time to work through their problems, issues, challenges, and constraints with a salesperson who has the business acumen to ask a powerful question and who cares enough to help them improve.
When your dream client answers your big questions, ask them to share more about their situation with you. You will suddenly be a far more interesting person due to value creation.
How and why are questions more powerful than statements?
Is there a statement that you can make that does as much to demonstrate your business acumen as a great question?
What are the two or three power questions that demonstrate your business acumen, indicate that you have massive situational knowledge, and that creates the influence necessary to create an opportunity?