Have you ever noticed that Questions are the answer?

photo by Bast 

I’m going to date myself here, but my parents had an 8-track tape that I used to listen to when I was growing up – it was the soundtrack to Lost Horizon (a 1973 remake of a Frank Capra 1937 film).  I don’t really remember the movie being worthwhile, but I remember the soundtrack and several of the songs really well – it’s the kind of music that sticks with you.

One of the ‘stickier’ songs is “Question Me an Answer“.

Question me an answer bright and clear.
I will answer with a question clear and bright.
Even though your answer may be wrong my question will be right.
Question me an answer.
Answer with a question.

It was written by Burt Bacharach and it’s catchy to the point that you’ll regret having listened to it (consider yourself warned).

What does this have to do with anything?  If you’re trying to close a sale, then questions are the answer.

Depending on the source of your sales training, this concept comes up quite a bit – it’s the essence behind SPIN selling, it’s a key part of Sandler Training and it shows up in a lot of other sales books.

The basic idea is that if I tell you how great I am (or my product is) then I’m just selling you (and you’re not likely to buy).  However if I can ask the right questions and get you to acknowledge that you have a problem that I can solve, then you’ve sold yourself (and you’re much more likely to buy…assuming everything makes sense, you’ve got money, etc.).

What’s Your Question?

This topic came up in one of my Peer Group Advisory Boards the other day (by the way, as a business owner, where do you get your accountability and inspiration?).  😉

I kicked off the discussion with a challenge around the table on what question they could ask their best prospect that would highlight the benefits they bring to the table.  It’s a challenging exercise and realistically in a sales discussion you are going to lead up with several questions that are linked together but if you can simplify it down it can become a good touchstone to help get you focused on letting people buy!

As an example, I might use something along the lines of:

What are you currently doing to make sure that you are working ON your business every week (instead of just IN your business)?

Ideally you want the question to be open ended – not something that’s going to generate a quick yes or no.  You want the question to generate some uncomfortable response that’s relative to the benefit that you deliver.

I thought Sarah’s response (Sarah is the owner of Dog Eared Pages, a marketing and writing company) was really good:

What’s holding you back from doing the marketing that you should be doing?

Sarah knows that most business owners aren’t doing as much marketing as they should be doing and she offers a cost-effective way to take that off their plate.

It’s not an easy process to come up with questions that really pinpoint the issues that you can solve, and realistically you will have different questions for different people (since they likely have different issues). 

However It’s still a worthwhile exercise to come up with some good examples – it will help you starting thinking differently and it becomes a great piece to add to  your Elevator Pitch (i.e. I work with business owners that are trying to answer the question “How can I make more money?“).

Share your questions here – I’d love to get other ideas on what people are doing or how they develop their questions.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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