Don’t Be Nervous Asking Anxiety Questions

March 28, 2019

Asking Questions

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates.

Ever had a hot lead suddenly go cold? Your calls go unanswered. Emails aren’t acknowledged. Then, when someone finally does get back to you, it’s to tell you the company’s decided to go in a different direction, maybe even to a competitor.

This situation may now appear as a lost opportunity, a failed sale after weeks, maybe months, of work. There is, however, another way to frame this common situation. Why not consider this seeming rejection as another chance to reinforce why your solution is still the best fit (provided it still is)?

First, though, you need to find out what caused that change of heart.

As any top sales performer will tell you, a little tenderness and tenacity can go a long way. Whether it’s impromptu or more prepared, you need to start a conversation that gets someone with purchasing power to consider all options. This approach will include what appears to be tough questions to make sure they aren’t only viewing the pros of their decision, but also critically thinking over the potential cons that could surface as a result of their decision. With this approach, you want to ask questions such as:

  • What happens if your chosen path doesn’t work as intended?
  • What will be the financial impact if this new approach doesn’t work?
  • What about the other ways this could affect you professionally or even personally?
  • Have you thought this through as thoroughly as possible?

We call these anxiety questions, because they are meant to elicit an emotional response and open an unanticipated dialog to get a prospect to rethink their chosen solution for their business problem.

These questions can be created and used at other times during the sales/buying cycle, not just to save a sale. They can be used to unearth other problems, to have the client see your offerings differently or to create a sense of urgency before an issue worsens. There is a skill to doing this effectively, which is why this remains a popular topic during our ValueSelling workshops, regardless of a sales professional’s career tenure.

It may feel like a shift in tone, given conversations typically focus on positives, not potential pitfalls. Staying positive is still important, even as you lead someone to consider the potential of challenging consequences to come, if a certain decision is made. Always keep in mind that your intent is to get them to think about their future that a penultimate decision now poses.

When anxiety questions are well prepared and positioned, you don’t risk losing the rapport you’ve established; you actually enhance it. You know where someone is struggling and sincerely want to help alleviate their stress and play a role in their success. That’s why anxiety questions are educational and instructional, reflecting your expertise and being respectful of their decision-making process.

That assist will not be forgotten, even if in the end the prospect does indeed continue in that other direction. If your gut was correct, and they won’t be satisfied with another vendor long-term, it’s possible you’ll eventually hear from someone at the company who is eager to engage. The contact may be that same executive who turned you down. Or, more likely, it’ll be the person that replaced them.

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