4 Revealing Questions You Need to Ask Your Prospect

Blog122_4Qs-1Companies invest millions of dollars in CRM systems, yet do not invest the same time and resources into their sales funnel and revenue forecasting.  A CRM system is like a health monitor for your business, and to be effective, it needs to be highly accurate.

If your data is wrong, your projections are wrong.

Bad or misrepresented data means you are flying by the seat of your pants and bound to make mistakes that will eventually come back to hurt you.

Like most companies, you’ve likely invested in a CRM system such as Salesforce.com, but you’re frustrated because you’re not getting the results you expected out of the investment.

Are you looking at the right visuals on your dashboard?

Are you generating reports that provide the information you need to make smart executive decisions?

Or are you struggling with poor data input from your sales force which gives you useless or difficult to understand data from the system?

Tool, Not a Task

The quality and accuracy of data input are the holy grail of CRM success. The data entered by the salesperson on the account, the opportunity, and customer interaction are the most critical source of customer intelligence available. For sales leaders to hold a high degree of confidence in this data, it must be recent, accurate and trustworthy.

You need to get your sales people to see the CRM system as a tool and not a task. Helpful hints are covered in my blogpost on CRM systems.

Ask the Right Four Questions

In this blog, I want to focus on the kinds of questions sales leaders/managers should be asking of the data. But first, please know that if you line your sales funnel on what you want, the sales, versus what the prospect wants, the result, you’d be making a big mistake.

Sales managers need to ask good questions of their salespeople, and salespeople need to be comfortable asking what might appear to be tough questions of their prospects. And how you ask the question is as important as what you ask.

In my experience, four core questions yield the knowledge salespeople need for each of their prospects.  Ask these in a clear, thoughtful tone, and you’ll have a good sense of which pursuits are real, and which ones are a waste of time. Your CRM data will automatically become a more useful tool.

Answer each question in the prospect’s words.

1. What Happens If They (your prospects) Don’t Solve Their Problem?

Top sales performers always know the answer to this question because they uncover this information from the prospect early in the sales process. If the prospect’s answer is insignificant to their business, then your sale probably won’t happen.

Ultimately, you have to not only know the issue, but also the impact and associated importance. Remember people buy because they want to fix, accomplish or avoid something.

Blog122_4Qs-2To get your prospects to buy, you need them to realize that the limitations and holes in their current situation puts their company and personal objectives and goals at risk.

I have found that if you spend the time early in the selling process to uncover the need, and help the prospect build a vision for the solution, when you ask the question, “What happens if you don’t fix the problem?” ─he or she will tell you in detail and self-discover that they need to change.

You must make the status quo unsafe.

2. Who Else is Impacted?  Are They Involved?

If you ask your prospect, “Who makes the final decision?”, you’ll always get the same answer. “I do!”

Instead, ask your prospect “Who else is impacted?”

The people most directly impacted by solving the prospect’s problem need to be involved early in the sales process. In MHI Global’s Sales Best Practice Study 2015 study both World-Class Sales Performers and All Respondents saw an increase in the average number of influencers, well above the five-year historical average.

With an ever-increasing quantity of information to process and more stakeholders to appease, we anticipate that both the number of influencers and the number of perspectives they represent will continue to grow every year. In the same study above, research cites that the number of decision makers involved in the typical deal increased to 5.8 in 2015, up from 4.6. Salespeople must cover all those impacted by the solution they are selling.

To continue to be successful, sales professionals must broaden their knowledge base to be able to connect with and influence the variety of people involved. They need to be able to satisfy requests for more detailed product capabilities, vertical applications or technical alignment from a wider variety of buyer perspectives.

What’s more, the sales professional must incorporate and balance the buyers’ concepts (their vision for the solution) with the organization’s power structure to determine how this decision will be made. Today’s buyers often have less independent authority to make investment decisions and are subject to corporate and personal political whims.

3. Why Would We Lost This Deal?

Blog122_4Qs-3Know why you would lose each opportunity. If the prospect tells you it was about price, that means they felt they were getting better value from someone else. You can deliver better value without being the low bidder.

Price matters most when the person selling believes price matters most. Most poorly trained salespeople tend to lower the price when they receive price resistance.

Any price, no matter how low, will always seem high to a prospect if their perceived value is low. The key to effectively handling price resistance is to understand this simple, yet profound, concept.
Prospects say they want low price, but what they want is low cost. What is the difference?

Price is what prospects pay for your product or service now. Cost is what the customer/client pays by buying late, not at all or wrong.  It is their overall cost over an extended period.

In most cases we get what we pay for. Buy cheap and you get less value or higher cost. Buy expensive and you get higher value or lower cost over time.  This declaration is not always true but tends to be true most of the time.

The sales superstars sell value and don’t defend price. In the long run, it is much easier to justify high price if the value is there than poor quality and constant product/service problems.

4. Why Would Your Prospect Change From What They Are Doing to What You Are Selling?

The single greatest competition is the status quo. Build a list of every reason a prospect would change from their existing vendor or solution to you. Then you can ask great questions to see if those conditions exist.

When salespeople hit the prospect’s inclination to do nothing, they have a tendency to push harder to sell their solution.

What these salespeople don’t realize is when prospects fall into the status quo, it’s not about your products or services. It’s about your concern for the prospect’s business and how it’s in danger if the company stays where it is, facing the challenges, threats, changes, problems, and other issues that are taking aim at it in the marketplace.

Even if your prospect is unhappy with the current situation, it’s safe to just stay where they are and do nothing.

The only way to overcome the status quo is by showing your contact that the status quo is unsafe. It’s unacceptable, untenable, or unsustainable.

When I ask salespeople why the prospect should change and buy their solution, I often get an answer relating to their solution and what it will do for the prospect versus what problem it solves.

But the majority of prospects won’t change. Sales Benchmark Index indicates that nearly 60 percent of all qualified sales pipeline opportunities end up in a no decision. No change.

A great exercise is to list out, from the prospect’s view, the reasons to stay with the status quo. These reasons become red flags for the salesperson, and now they need to build a strategy to help the prospect see that the status quo is unsafe.


So remember these four core questions when you are not happy with what you see in your CRM data. It may be the quality of the data/answers floating around in your sales pipeline. Get your sales team to ask of each prospect these questions and input the answers:

  1. What happens if your prospect doesn’t solve his problem?

  1. Who else is impacted by the decision?  Are they involved?

  1. Why would we lose this deal?

  1. Why would your prospect change from what he is doing to what you are selling?

You’ll gain an entirely new appreciation for your CRM system, and a smile on your face a quota time.

See you on upside,


For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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