Upgrade your selling strategy by learning how to ask the right questions. In this post, you’ll learn why it’s better to solve problems rather than simply pitching.
In this article:
- The Significance of Asking the Right Questions
- The Four Principles of Solution-Based Selling
Four Selling Strategy Principles to Ask the Correct Prospect Questions
The Significance of Asking the Right Questions
When it comes to your selling strategy, a few questions matter: What’s good about your pitch? What’s bad about it?
A business trains its in-house sales professionals to ask questions to qualify their prospects during the buying process.
The issue is, how do you avoid a pitch and instead be a problem-solver for your customer?
What Is a Pitch? It is a planned presentation that intends to bring a prospect deeper into the sales funnel through persuasion. A team can pitch in different ways, such as through cold calling and social media platforms.
Sales trainer Tim Wackel gave us the scoop on the solution-based sales strategy in the Playmaker podcast: “Stop Pitching: Start Solving Problems for Your Customers”.
With over 25 years of mastering the sales process, Tim Wackel is well-known as the number one producer in a large company.
He led a software startup to a successful IPO. He also directed a $50 million sales organization for a Fortune 500 company.
You can listen to the entire podcast below or read about his four principles of asking questions for a problem-solving-based selling model.
The Four Principles of Solution-Based Selling
Companies train a sales team to ask questions, said Tim Wackel. Effective sales conversations, though, will avoid generic sales-qualifying questions such as “Do you have a budget?”
Instead, they focus on questions that are all about solving the problem of the target audience. How do you create these queries?
There are four timeless principles to creating the perfect sales questions, according to Wackel:
After three decades of working with top performers, patterns of success begin to emerge. I want to share with you four timeless and tested principles on what it takes stop pitching and start solving.
1. Prescription Before Diagnosis Is Malpractice
One principle to solution-based selling strategy is to avoid jumping into the pitch before you have the full picture of the buyer’s journey. It means you need to have the right idea of the customer’s needs and problems.
“This is a huge temptation I still suffer from today. It’s much easier for me to talk about me than it is to ask about you.
That makes this a very comfortable and easy thing to do. Pitching prematurely is an easy thing for us to do.”
He added that premature pitches happen when sales representatives thoroughly train on products and know their scripts well. It’s much easier to go into this information when they have it all on hand.
2. Pitch Less, Ask More Questions
The second principle derives from the first. Instead of talking about yourself and your product, you should focus on your buyer and their needs.
When you pitch prematurely, the prospect doesn’t engage. People, in general, don’t like to be around someone who just talks all the time, who just talks too much, and who talks about themselves.
Premature pitches also force you into positioning your product generically and focusing on the obvious, which may not be the real concern for your customer.
Instead, make fewer statements and ask more questions. These are your tools for understanding the customer and their challenges.
When you ask more questions, it puts you in the role of an advisor.
When it comes to phrasing questions to make sure you engage people, Tim recommended the following three general criteria. The best sales questions are:
They also have the context around them that gives the prospect a reason to answer.
If you ask more questions, they’re going to think you’re smart.
3. Kick the “Hopeium” Habit
Many sales representatives have a bad habit of making assumptions about their prospects. It can translate into poor sales pitches that contain biases.
Tim calls this the “hopeium habit,” and refers to the hope your prospect will tell you what you want to hear. This bias will cause you to:
- Look for positive responses
- Become biased by what you really want to hear
- Make it difficult to share bad news
- Create more work for you
If you’ve got a hopium habit, you’re always looking for a positive response. You can misjudge everything you say and do according to what you hope to hear.
Here’s where it gets tough. You’re just making it really, really difficult for people to be honest with you.
You’re making it difficult for people to share bad news. Ultimately, you’re creating a lot more work for yourself.
He advised sales teams to approach their prospects with caution. Sometimes it’s best to go for a no than for a yes.
Most may ask, “Would you like me to go ahead and put together a proposal?” Instead, consider a different phrasing.
For example, “Hey, I really enjoyed our conversation today, but I sense putting together a proposal is still a bit premature. What are your thoughts?”
Top performers are not afraid to put the elephant in the middle of the room, concluded Tim.
4. Take Some Time and Invest in Your Sales Skills
Top sales performers take the time to invest in their sales skills, said Tim Wackel. He added the fourth principle of the solution-based selling strategy is continuous professional training.
If you’re not pausing every once in a while to sharpen the saw, eventually, you’re just going to bust the blade.
Take the time to listen to the podcast. It will teach you how to create sales questions that solve problems for your customers.
You will also learn about the queries that can kill your sales pitch. Most of all, you’ll know how many questions is too much for a prospect.
All these will help you create an effective selling strategy that converts and provides a memorable customer experience.
Do you agree with the four principles of selling strategy? Share your thoughts about them in the comments section below.
Up Next: Five Myths About Prospecting
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 22, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.