If you’re in sales, then you know how crucial it can be to ask the right questions.
It’s my feeling though that sales should be less about asking the right questions and more about knowing your stuff so that a conversation can occur more naturally. However (and this is a BIG however), there is one sales question out there that I’ve seen work magic countless times.
My agency’s founder and president taught me this question at one of first trade shows I went to with him and I’ve been using it religiously ever since.
This question is:
If you could wave a magic wand and fix anything in your business, what would it be?
And it doesn’t need to be just a b-to-b sales question. Change the word business to life, relationship, or even motorcycle and you’re asking a very revealing question whether you’re in sales or not.
6 reasons why this sales question works:
1It gets people talking. Often, people have a lot of trouble articulating their problem, particularly in the b-to-b space. Phrasing the question, “what’s your problem,” in this more whimsical fashion frees up peoples’ imaginations and gets them thinking differently. Don’t believe me? Test it.
2It distances people from the cause of the problem. When you ask people to step back with their magic wand, you essentially free them of any guilt they may have from the fact that they might have had a hand in causing the problem. You won’t run into nearly as much opposition that occurs when people get defensive when discussing their problems.
3It primes people to focus on solutions. Piggy-backing on the last point, when people are more focused on solutions rather than problems it opens the conversation up into more of a brainstorming session between you and the prospect rather than a barrage of sales questions. This inevitably results in your prospective client spilling their guts and giving you more valuable intel than you could ever want.
4It’s fun. You’ll probably get a smile out of people when you ask them this question. After all, it’s kind of a silly question, but that’s a good thing. Dale Carnegie’s 5th principle in his sales course was simply, smile. However, half of your effort of smiling as a salesperson is to merely to get the other person to feel comfortable and smile. There is a whole bunch of science behind the fact that peoples’ moods positively change just by forming a smile, even if they’re not actually happy at that moment.
5It seems low pressure. Because this question is fun and playful it doesn’t sound like a high pressure sales question to the recipient. That’s the beauty of it. People typically are not intimidated, defensive or very strategic when they answer because of the question’s cushy facade. Don’t kid yourself though, this question gets right to the heart of what you want to know as a salesperson.
6It quickly identifies their problem. As a salesperson, efficiency is pretty critical. You want to know can I help this person or not as quickly as possible. The faster you get to the bottom of that question, the better at sales you’ll be.
How to use this sales question:
You’ve got to own it. Elaborate or change the wording. Be more descriptive. Bring them into a story and have fun with it.
Tell them to imagine that your pen is the magic wand and then physically hand it to them. Seriously. It’s goofy, I know, but it works!
If you’re not comfortable playing the part, it will help you loosen up by explaining at the beginning that you realize this is silly. Say something like, “I know this goofy, but just play along.” I’ve seen our president get the most serious engineers to open up with this line.
I guarantee that if you start using this question during trade shows, in-person meetings and over the phone that your sales calls will become more productive.