Favorite Question (Issue 497)

In which we are reminded to understand at the beginning of a conversation our client's purpose.

Someone asked me this week, ‘Do you have a favorite question that you use in sales calls?’

After overcoming the urge to reply, ‘Yes,’  and listing a dozen wonderful questions, I replied, ‘Tell me a little about what’s happening in your calls.”

The asker’s reply: ‘Well, you know, a question that gets your clients to open up and tell you what you need to know so you know what to talk about or what to sell.’

I found myself wondering about this guy’s social life. Like, has he spent his life searching for the one favorites question or line that would lead otherwise perfectly sensible prospective mates to sigh, swoon, and run off with him to live happily ever after? Has he been searching for THAT one favorite question, too?

‘Well, how do you typically manage your calls?’ I asked. I won’t bore you with his answer, ‘blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,’ and I discovered, as I listened to his meanderings, that I do, in fact, have a favorite question.

This is such a powerful question that I should be charging you hundreds or thousands of dollars just simply to be reading this column, so convinced I am that your regular use of this question will increase your sales. I run the risk of giving up half my income for the rest of my life by sharing this incredible secret with you. A secret that took me years of research and experience with thousands of sales people to discover.

Ready? Here it is. My favorite question in a sales call:

‘What do you want to accomplish through our conversation today?’

Or, its variations:

  • “What led you to meet with me today?’
  • ‘What outcomes would you like to see from this discussion?’
  • “How will our conversation help you with what you’re trying to accomplish?’

If we ask this question at or near the beginning of every sales call, we will be absolutely amazed at what happens. Prospects and clients will, more often than not, tell us what they need from the meetings. Guess what? That puts us in a better position to provide it!

This amazing technique works equally well inside our own companies, too. If we ask this question at the beginning of every potentially pointless meeting inside our companies, we”ll be equally amazed. True story: We have one client who, at the beginning of each meeting, asks the people who have invited her to the meeting, ‘What’s the purpose of the meeting and what do you need from me?’ If they can’t give a crisp answer, she thanks them and leaves. She uses the saved time for productive purposes with her sales teams. Amazing!

And think about what that could mean for our clients, if we asked this question and got right to the point that they cared most about.

So, go. Ask the question – what do you want to accomplish through our discussion today?  Be amazed.

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