How to Ask the Right Questions When Prospecting, So You Don’t Waste Time

Man in front of a blackboard of questionmarks

As exciting as it can be to meet new prospects, the song and dance that follows is often too time consuming for most business owners, entrepreneurs, or salespeople.

Besides your initial meeting with a prospective client, you need to schedule one-on-one meetings to uncover their specific struggles and determine how you can help them solve these problems. This can be knocked out in a simple 30-minute Skype chat, or it can take a few days or weeks to successfully complete. No one has this much time to waste.

What if there was a way for you to control how long the prospecting process takes instead of being led by your potential customer’s timeline?

The key is asking your client the right questions so you don’t waste any more of your precious time. We’ll show you just how to do that in today’s post.

Dive Deeper from the Start

Don’t immediately open your meetings with a slew of business questions. However, there’s nothing wrong with leading deeper conversations with prospects from the start.

If you’re used to asking expected greetings such as, “So how are things going with you?”, you’re probably also used to receiving simple answers that don’t lend themselves to progressing the conversation forward. This drags out meetings more than you may realize.

So why not lead with easy, open-ended questions to break the ice and give your prospect the green light to open up? The more comfortable you make a prospective client, the easier it will be to start building a solid rapport and gain their trust. This is what the foundations of the best customer relationships look like.

A few good open-ended questions include:

  • What’s new with your business these days? Do you have any milestones to share?
  • Can you tell me more about your story? How did you get into this business?
  • What’s changing/evolving with your business? I’d love to hear more about it.

As you can see, each question focuses on your prospect and gives them the opportunity to start peeling back the onion layers. Since these questions aren’t necessarily sales-focused, your potential client should also be able to remove any walls they have up and just connect with you as a person, not a business.

Group of people in a relaxed meeting

Talk About Goals

During your rapport building, it’s essential that you uncover your potential client’s present and future goals. Learning these from the start will help you determine how your product or service will help your prospect reach these objectives.

Don’t focus on selling your services at this point — keep gaining your client’s trust and concentrate on showing them why you’re a great fit together. If your product or service doesn’t align with their goals, it may not pay to continue on as far as prospecting is concerned.

Some of my favorite goal-focused questions include:

  • Can you tell me where you see your business in 2–3, 5, or 10 years?
  • Can you tell me more about the goals you had when you first started this business and how they have evolved since then?
  • How do you define a “win” in your business?

Of course, most businesses are all about increasing revenues and their customer base so don’t accept these easy answers. Unexpected wins, such as cutting costs or saving money, can lead to an increase in revenue as well, so it’s important to uncover these hot points as soon as possible. Focus on these “wins” and find out what a “success” really looks like for your client so you know how to pitch an idea that will help them meet their goals.

Uncover the Obstacles

While you should be concerned with helping your prospective client achieve their goals in some way or another, you should also understand each of the problems and challenges your client is facing.

See if you can uncover areas where your prospect needs improving just by asking about the obstacles they’re currently dealing with.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Can you tell me more about the challenges you face? Are they more time-focused or cost related?
  • What do you see as your biggest obstacle in this business?
  • How have you overcome challenges in the past? How do you plan to overcome them in the future? (Hopefully the second answer is connected to the product or service you offer)
  • If you overcame these obstacles, what would that look like? An increase in revenue or a reduction in costs, etc.?
  • How are these challenges affecting the growth of your business?

These questions should open the floodgates of communication between you and your potential customer. You’ll learn everything about their current motives and fears to their thoughts on the future of their business.

Keep in mind that no potential customer is going to open up about their biggest struggles to someone they don’t trust yet. So if you’re receiving short, one or two word answers, you may not have built up a solid rapport to get to this level. If you find yourself here, try asking additional questions from the previous two steps to get your prospect to open up further.

Focus on Your Relationship Moving Forward

Start to show your prospect how your company will be able to alleviate some of these issues to get them closer to meeting their future goals. Explain how your company aligns with their goals and success. But instead of blurting out your sales spiel, you should continue with a few more open ended questions.

These deal-closing questions to ask include:

  • In a perfect world, how do you see us working together? What can I do to make your life easier?
  • If I could take one hassle off your plate, what would that be?
  • If we were to move forward together, how would things be different for you? (Would I free up time so you can focus on more important items, or would I help you save money so you’ll have more capital to invest?)

Depending on these answers, you should respond with how your product or service can help them in some way. Remember, at the heart of it, that’s what your client is looking for. If you’re going to close this deal, you need to solve one (or more) of their problems in order to capture the business.

Keep in mind that these questions are not designed for you to regurgitate why your business is the right choice. Instead, remember that you’re establishing a mutual relationship that will benefit both parties involved.

Once you have your prospective client’s answers to all of these questions, you’ll begin to close the deal with solid reasons for why the business relationship makes sense — but you’ll do so in half the time you normally would take to move forward and you won’t have to feel like you’re in sales mode.

The key is focusing on building a genuine rapport with your prospect to encourage productive, business-oriented answers that will connect how your product or service is the right choice to solve the problems your prospect is facing.

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