Most salespeople ask fact-based questions during their sales calls.
These are questions designed to uncover factual information about a buyer’s current situation, organization, and business direction. These questions yield purely objective information and set the groundwork for asking questions to uncover problems.
Unfortunately, from the buyer’s perspective, fact questions have the lowest value.
Because the buyer already knows all of the facts.
These questions are boring or even irritating to the buyer. In fact, if you ask too many fact questions, the buyer may even think you are interrogating them! Not particularly insightful.
Salespeople routinely over-use fact questions since they require minimal effort to develop. So as a rule, don’t ask any question that you could have answered yourself doing pre-call research.
A more effective approach to increase customer satisfaction is to ask thought-provoking questions that help buyers consider business problems and the implications, effects, or consequences of such problems.
A powerful way of developing such questions is to think about the buyer’s business using the IMPACT model:
|Image: Think about your Buyer: What do you know about how your solution could enhance the image of the Buyer, provide cache, or attract better quality customers?
Money: How much can you help the Buyer add revenue, reduce cost(s), or improve margins?
Productivity: How can you help increase efficiency, improve throughput, or reduce labor costs?
Advantage: How can you help improve the competitive advantage or help the company compete and win or attract new customers?
Customer satisfaction. Can your solution improve customer satisfaction, reduce complaints, or improve retention and referral rates?
Total cost of ownership: Is the total cost of ownership for your solution superior to that for the competition? Factor that influences total cost of ownership includes lower maintenance expense, longer life, or better quality.
Using the IMPACT Model
Let’s assume you have asked a few fundamental “need” questions to help the buyer identify his or her problems such as
“Is that a problem?”
“What concerns do you have?”
“How satisfied are you with your current vendor?”
Now you should ask IMPACT questions that help the buyer consider the full implications of his or her problem.
Remember, your biggest challenge as a salesperson is typically not selling against the competition, but fighting the status quo. Your buyer must consider the problem sufficiently serious enough to warrant taking action to solve it.
Asking IMPACT questions helps the buyer consider and verbalize the implications, effects, or consequences of the needs, problems, or priorities you previously identified.
Examples of IMPACT questions include:
|“How does this lack of accurate data impact profitability?”
“What do you see as the main factors impacting the total cost of ownership?”
“What aspects of improving the customer experience do you think will have the best payback?”
“Why is it important to solve this problem?”
“What are your top two or three challenges that this problem is connected with?”
“Are you facing any other challenges as a result of…?”
Asking IMPACT questions will help you uncover the full magnitude of problems by getting the buyer to consider issues that may not be obvious.This will help the buyer build connections or links between different parts of the IMPACT model.
For example, a productivity or customer related issue may also affect profitability. Likewise, a customer satisfaction problem may also be damaging the buyer’s competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Benefits of Changing
After the buyer considers the full magnitude of a problem, you now need to help him or her envision the ideal situation and how they will benefit from this solution.
Again, you do this by asking IMPACT questions, now focusing on the implications of solving the problem.
Examples of such IMPACT questions include:
|“How does solving this problem help you with your productivity issues you mentioned?”
“If you solve this problem who else in the organization will benefit directly?”
“What are the benefits of this solution for other areas of the business?”
“Which of these options has the biggest impact on your bottom line?”
Notice how these questions help the buyer understand how other areas of the business can also benefit from the solution, increasing the overall value of the solution. It’s also inherently more powerful for the buyer to tell you about the benefits of your solution by answering questions than for you to tell the buyer about it.
The IMPACT model gives you a framework to consider your buyer’s potential business problems and then prepare questions – IMPACT questions – in advance of your sales call. Asking these type of questions is powerful because they help a Buyer think more deeply about their problems and that creates motivation to take action.