David Sandler said, “it typically takes three or more questions to get to the truth,” which was the basis for his “rule of three plus.”
While we may follow this rule in the early stages of qualifying a prospect the longer our sales cycle goes or the more difficult the conversation becomes we forget to be attached to the process of qualifying a prospect and become attached to the outcome of ending a difficult conversation before it’s resolved or closing a sale.
Like the “three feet from gold” story told in Think and Grow Rich, getting to the truth with our prospect is often two to three questions past where we’re currently comfortable asking.
Part of what holds us back are our negative scripts like, “don’t be a pest.” Another part occurs when we fail to plan for our visit with our prospect in advance, especially the questions we need to ask to effectively qualify. The biggest part of what holds us back is when we say to ourselves, “I know…” (e.g. “I know what ‘needs to be better’ means” or “I know what ‘we’re having trouble with <blank>’ means.”).
When we hear ourselves say, “I know” that’s our trigger to ask one more question, the response to which should prompt another question and so on. Trapping ourselves to ask when we think “I know” stretches our comfort zone slightly and once stretched our comfort zone doesn’t return to its original shape.
Another way to trap ourselves to ask more questions is to ask, “what have we missed” or “what haven’t we talked about yet that you wanted to cover,” when our conversation lulls. We’ll either get new information from our prospect or “I don’t know,” which is designed to put pressure on us. We can easily reverse that pressure by telling a story about a topic prospects usually want to talk about or saying, “we haven’t brought us <blank>. Is that worth talking about?” That close ended question prompts a response from our prospect, which we can turn into another line of questioning to gather more information.
Slapping our head after not getting a sales because “I should’ve asked…” hurts. Let’s take that hurt away by asking two to three more questions than feels comfortable and, eventually, our head slaps will more often be high fives.
Until next time… go sell something.