It is rare, when working with sales people, to not hear the request "I need some good powerful questions", what types of questions should I ask? Powerful, usually means "impactful" and the impact they are looking for is a question, or questions, that will deliver information that could lead them to a sale! So they ask, "give me a killer, silver bullet question to make every call a success!"
Often, sales people make the mistake of asking questions that are "powerful" for them but not necessarily "powerful" for the prospect. What I mean is, they begin to ask questions that are selfish in nature and might quickly identify how good the opportunity might be for them with this contact. They ask questions like:
How many of these do you use?
How do you use them?
How often do you order?
How much do you know about our product (setting up for a feature benefit dump!)?
Are you the decision maker?
When were you planning on making your next order?
Powerful, maybe in terms of finding out information that will help you sell. But completely lacking power in terms of showing the customer you have value to him/her. In fact, although this information at some point has value, they are questions that scream "sales person" and quickly identify you as someone with clearly selfish motives. Not a good start and actually a great way to build defensiveness!
Powerful questions are questions that help both you and your prospect quickly assess whether there is mutual benefit and value in continued dialog. You certainly don't want to waste your time with someone who may not need what you have (short cut to a long selling cycle or wasted time). Similarly, your prospect doesn't want to waste their time talking with someone who doesn't have what they need (marking you as another time wasting sales person).
So, what are the types of "powerful" questions that will benefit both parties? You need to ask questions that will help your prospect define their problems/needs in a way that can help you determine, quickly, if you can be an asset to them. Those same problem questions demonstrate credibility to your customer by making them feel like you know their business (how could you ask if you didn't know) and will not appear as selfishly motivated (remove defensiveness). They will help both of you uncover and understand their needs that might lead to a mutual opportunity.
You must build a list of questions that revolve around problems that you solve for your customers. Good problem oriented questions show that you:
Are interested in them and their business more than your own self interests. This removes
Helps them Identify with you and give them the sense that you know their business.
Helps you identify whether or not they are really a good opportunity for you.
Helps you to "sound" different than many of the people you will compete with.
Create tremendous value for your customer by helping them decide what they really need to fix and
how best to do it.
Sharing this type of information in a two way dialog creates "powerful" communication between people that leads to mutual understanding and trust. Gaining trust this way, is what helps remove fear (barrier) that buying from you would be a mistake. Through understanding you gain their confidence and with confidence in you they are much more likely to make their decision in your favor.
Action Step: What are the problems you solve for people? Make a list and then create problem questions around the problems. The "powerful" problem questions will get you what you you really need... information that helps you know want problems to solve!