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Inaugural Post – The 4 Questions You Must Ask in Every Sales Presentation

September 8, 2010

In a difficult economy, we don’t have the luxury of a bottomless pit of sales opportunities at our disposal.  From everything I read on a daily basis, as well as in speaking with my colleagues across numerous industries, I think most people would agree that we are on the long slow road to normalcy, but things still stink for the most part.

As a result, we need to maximize each and every viable sales engagement we are fortunate to come across.  We’ll talk about generating more of these viable opportunities in other posts, but for the here and now, we’ll deal with what you can do TODAY with presentations you are planning to make this week.

Assumptions:

– You are selling a product that is more or less built on needs analysis and fact-finding via a meeting (either in person, on the phone, GoToMeeting, etc).
– Your product is not just what I would call a “widget sale”, meaning a simple re-order or a commodity sale won on availability or solely on price.
– Your sale hinges on your prospect having the ability to NOT buy from you – they could talk to a competitor or simply delay a decision and get by on what they currently have.


4 Questions You MUST ask – and these are not necessarily in the chronological order you would ask them…

(1) “What sort of time line have you established for making this decision?  When would you like to have (the product/service) in place, rolled out, installed, etc?”

This is critical – if your prospect cannot answer this question, or answers with some “umm’s” and “hmm’s” – they are not very far along in their process.  Most likely they are slowly dipping their toe into the pool to sense the temperature.  this is not necessarily a bad thing, just be aware that this prospect is very cool and just gathering info.
* If you get the sense that they DO KNOW the time line but are reluctant to share with you – this would lead to a number of different questions altogether…

(2) “Are there any other solutions/competitors/providers that you are also considering?  What sort of criteria have you set for determining your partner on this?”

Tough question to ask, and it takes some stones to lay it out on the line, but this way you’ll know if you’re head to head.  You could also come away with the knowledge about price-sensitivity, the buyer’s sophistication, and whether or not you are setting up for a true “apples-to-apples” comparison (I hate that term with a passion!)

(3) “What sort of decision-making framework have you set up for this?  Is it solely your call, a committee or group, etc?

Identify what role your point of contact plays very early.  If they are merely an influencer and gathering information for the purchasing committee, at least you’ll be able to know if subsequent calls to other key figures are in order.

(4) “From your vantage point, what is the single most important factor in determining who you will go with?”

Price?  Service?  Track record?  Payment terms and conditions?  Again, these are the things you must know up front in order to position yourself in the best possible position to win.

These are just a few of the questions many will ask, but if you skip these questions during your fact-finding process, you will lack important key information that you could feed into your concrete proposal.  Having a grasp on how and when your opportunity will proceed within your funnel is paramount to success, not to mention having a truer vision on what opportunities will close and which will just linger…

Any others you would add?  Please comment and Retweet!

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4 Comments
  1. Joe permalink
    September 9, 2010 9:00 pm

    from a rep’s point of view it’s amazing how much credibility you can gain with your customer/prospect when asking these questions.

    I’ve had many meetings when the prospect couldn’t answer them and asked me what competitors they should call!! These are the fun ones, they typically don’t close but make great conversations at the bar.

  2. Ruth Whitaker Gilbert permalink
    September 9, 2010 9:40 pm

    Knowing the answer to #4 and being able to deliver is absolutely the deal closer and the start of a beautiful business relationship.

  3. Joe Schmidt permalink
    September 13, 2010 9:29 am

    I might #5:

    In order to create a successful future business partnership between our two companies, I need to make you look so good it will actually help to advance your career. How can we accomplish that together over the long term?

  4. September 15, 2010 9:49 am

    That’s a very powerful statement. Even made more so if you happen to be in a position to actually deliver on the response they give.

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