Growth
October 28, 2021

Can Questions Grow Your Business Relationships?

Versational

A man and a woman high five.
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash
1070 words; 4 min 16 sec reading time

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Building relationships with questions

To establish a connection to another being, ask questions. Asking creates a sense of acceptance and being on the receiver's side. The give-and-take of responses builds trust. Relationships leverage trust. It is well-known that relationships are built on trust. Trust maintains business and personal relationships. Trust provides more honest dialogue and feedback. One can also use questions to deescalate a tense situation. Funneling questions are good for lessening tension. Funneling questions begin in a general nature and progressively drill into more specific details. Funneling questions may give the impression to the respondent of being heard. The sensation of being listened to may diminish conflict and deflect from the heated emotions among the feuding parties. Funneling questions are often used during investigations.

Can questions persuade?

Salespeople know that questions are powerful tools for persuasion. Being lectured to is seldom appreciated. For example, mansplaining, a form of lecturing, tends to be derisive instead of praising. Well formulated questions may accomplish the same as lecturing but with a different and more appealing approach. A well-thought-out series of questions may educate and inform the respondent's participation compared to a lecture that might not captivate the audience's ability to change their thinking.

A 1993 study conducted by Vicki Morwitz, Eric Johnson, and David Schmittlein concluded that the chances of a car purchase increased by 35% after asking over 40,000 participants if they were going to buy a car within the next six months. The speculation is that the question planted the idea or lessened the hesitation of the action.

Thoughtfully plan the intent of your questions. Knowing the goals help you formulate your script with ease. Professionals in sales, negotiations, dating, interviewing, parenting, and coaching have casually described how they might intentionally or unintentionally strategically plan or study what they were going to say in their minds before a meeting. These professionals state their objectives and develop techniques in sync with their personalities and how they want to be seen.

The philosophy and science of questions

Philosophy came before science, historically. Named after Socrates, Socratic Questioning is an educational method to discover answers from his students. Socrates loosely followed a process, later used by scientists, in which, first, one asks a question to, second, find an answer. Third, that answer is dissected for logical fallacies and inconsistencies to, four, ask follow-up questions specific to that answer. At this point of the process, one would repeat step two and find a response to continue onto step four and to repeat the process. This philosophical process is similar to the scientific method available to everyone to advance their questioning skills to educate and persuade.

The art of crafting good layered questions for sales

Asking layered questions provides a larger picture of your respondent's logic and biases. The ability to ask good layered questions is a skill and grows after exposure to good questioners, rehearsing and practising, and thinking long and hard about what is affecting the close/goal. Your success rests on your listening skills before and after asking questions. You must listen to your client to grasp what questions to ask, and then you must listen to their answers to identify what follow-up questions to ask.

The purpose of layered questions is to open up your respondent, encouraging them to answer at length. The more you know of them, the more you can differentiate and position yourself, your brand, and your product uniquely from your competition within your client's desires and values. Because you know the differentiating value, benefit, and features of your brand and product, the more uniquely you can position to sell your offering tailored to their desires and needs. Let your offering's value and benefit lead the script of questions you plan to ask. When asking from your offering's unique selling proposition (USP), you would ask several intricately layered questions to gauge how much importance they place on your USP. The reason for asking several intricately layered feature and benefit questions is to build a complete 360-degree understanding of your respondent. Remember not to confuse features and benefits in your questioning. Features are product attributes, and benefits are what your client gets out of using your product. Knowing what features and benefits your client desires and needs allows you to evaluate the probability of a sale.  

In addition to knowing your competitor's features and benefits, know your client's competition and the benefits that your client could decrease with your help. By asking the right questions, you will uncover problems you could solve or opportunities to act upon. Drill into questions whose answers enable you to solve obstacles or win new business because of your ability to support your client in improving their offering. Ask detailed questions that allow you and your client to examine the competition and envision a way to surpass them.

Another crucial question is knowing who will be involved in buying your product and how the purchase decision is made. Since you intend to influence the purchasing decision, you should understand the decision-making process and biases. Your questions should change the way your client thinks because otherwise, they will remain acting in the same manner, which will probably not improve their current predicament. Carefully craft your questions to determine if a prospective client is a good fit for you.

Realistically, you will not be able to ask every important question in one visit. Plan for consecutive sales calls to build your thorough knowledge of your client and their solid and weak value points. Try to emulate this approach which is most natural for growers. A grower will nurture and adapt like their client over time. The point is to solve your client's problems as you do yours.  

Layer 1

Discovery is the first and top layer. Use these questions to identify the available profit opportunities. What are they seeking?  

Layer 2

During the second layer of questioning, elaborate on the responses received during the discovery questions. Seek to understand the respondent's requirements and nice-to-haves. What is the bigger context to what they are seeking?

Layer 3

For the third layer of questioning, uncover the reason and motivation behind the purchase. Knowing this information levels up the salesperson's ability to communicate the benefit and values to the buyer. The more insight into these questions, the better. Listen to more comprehensively address and service the buyer's motivation or the reason to change the status quo.

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