Questions vs. Information: Insights to Go Beyond the Script

Learn how to use social selling insights to move beyond scripted, cookie-cutter questions and get the information you really need from your prospects.

September 20, 2016

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Your prospect’s business has problems. You can offer an elegant solution. It seems simple—yet, as all sales reps know, the devil is in the details.

Every time you speak with a prospect, your goal should be to uncover pain points that open up sales opportunities. But in order for that to happen, salespeople must first learn to move away from scripted, cookie-cutter approaches—and towards an illuminating conversation that’s driven by insights.

Questions vs. Information

When it comes time to speak with their prospects, most reps prepare a list of pertinent questions—or, if they’re particularly short on time, they may simply tailor a previous list of questions to the prospect’s business. On the surface, this seems like a solid strategy. The right questions can penetrate to the root of the prospect’s concerns and goals—creating an opportunity for a sales win.

But the reality is often quite different. Taking a step back, it becomes clear that what you’re really seeking from a conversation with your prospect is information. Questions may help you obtain that information, but sticking to the script can leave you at an impasse when things veer off unexpectedly—in fact, your prospect may dodge your questions, never providing the answers you’re looking for.

“Questions are finite,” writes sales consultant Jim Keenan. “When we focus on the questions, we run the risk of not getting all the information we want. However, when we focus on the information, we keep digging.” In other words, the questions you ask should be secondary to the information you gather.

Preparing with Insights

When you know what information you need, you’ll ask the right questions naturally. But you can’t make that determination if you haven’t prepared beforehand. To press your prospect successfully—revealing their needs and aspirations—you need to understand their business, their industry, and what’s most relevant to them.

Social selling practices can provide you with this all-important entry point. Begin by connecting with your prospects on LinkedIn and other platforms. From there, keep an eye on their activities, including posts that interest them or groups they’ve joined. That way, you’ll already have an understanding of their pain points—and the right solutions to offer—before your first conversation.

Going Farther with Social Selling

Even if you go into your interviews armed to the teeth with valuable insights, you may not get all the information you need. If you haven’t won the deal yet, don’t be disheartened—social selling tactics may still provide the answer.

First, make sure that you’ve connected with as many decision makers as possible at your target company—CEB research shows that the average deal now involves 5.4 decision makers. Then, continue to monitor their updates, noting positional changes and other shake-ups, which may reveal needs and opportunities. Finally, develop a profile that showcases your value to prospects, and when possible, share relevant updates to highlight your expertise.

Sales reps are most successful when they have the information and insights necessary to understand their prospects’ needs. In today’s sales climate, that understanding often begins with social selling.

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