Have you ever wondered why some cold calls open up warm, probing discussions, while others fall down stone dead? Often the fate of a call is determined by the first few moments. You say ‘hello… I’m yada yada…’ and then you ask a question. Hints, tips, and training materials related to questioning techniques are available almost everywhere you care to look for sales aids. Yet they are still shrouded in mystery since some work beautifully for one person, while the same question fails spectacularly for another.
More infuriating still is that you can use an open question for days, weeks, and months, then it suddenly stops working. So what’s the deal with open questions, and questioning techniques, and why are some bad for business? Read on to find out what the Blue Donkey team think about the illusive open question, and which to avoid.
How question techniques work
Questioning techniques are used to get buyers talking. They typically start with a key word such as: who, what, when, why, and how. If you don’t ask the right open question, your call will fail to draw a potential buyer into a conversation, and it could render that record and business dead to you forever if they opt-out of future contact. If your question is a good one, it will prompt your potential buyer to give you a detailed answer. However, you can’t simply design an open question by inserting one of the key words in front of it. You have to think about the information you really need to know to understand whether that potential buyer has a need you can meet. So ask yourself ‘what does a company typically do that makes them need our product’? Your questioning technique should grow from that.
If you don’t care, don’t ask!
Cold calling is when we’re most likely to rely on open questions in our armoury of skills. It should go without saying that your questioning technique should exclude anything irrelevant, or pointless as far as your call is concerned. Yet, so many people still open their calls and waste the precious first moments by asking ‘how are you’. Far from being friendly, or a warm way to start a call, it actually serves to make the receiver of your call feel awkward.
If you’re speaking to a stranger, the impact of your first impression is more important than ever, so we suggest you take care to maximise it by asking a probing open question that gets people talking, shows empathy, builds rapport, and gives you the best chance of success. If you’re still at a loss for your magic open questioning technique, American Express has thrown together a few generic open question ideas such as ‘what problem does your business solve’.
Multiple choice is for exams
Another annoying habit we come across is the multiple-choice question. These might be great questions to begin with, which follow sound questioning techniques to the tee, yet they are asked with options piggy-backed on to them. For example ‘How do you go about doing X and Y?’ ….long painful silence…. ‘Do you do A or B?’ We know the silence after a question has been asked can feel long and uncomfortable, but go with it, it’s good news, it means the buyer is thinking carefully about your question and how best to answer it.
At Blue Donkey, we teach our cold calling experts to ask questions, then count the seconds before the answer on their fingers. This builds pace discipline because it’s almost impossible to do it quickly. We promise that by the time you get to 4 fingers, your buyer will start speaking. Multiple-choice questions are for exams, or the Cosmo quiz, not for building relationships unless of course, the Cosmo quiz is about relationships!