Asking The Right Questions

On an introductory call, how do you gather all of the information that you need from a prospect? An introductory call is usually fairly short, just a few minutes. You generally do not have the time to thoroughly question your prospect and then also move on to your next step, setting that introductory meeting. So, how do you gather enough information to qualify your prospect and, at the same time, set up the meeting?

First, make a list of all the information that you would like to gather from your prospect. Then, look at your list and decide what information is crucial and what information can wait for later (either later in the conversation or later at the meeting). Ask the crucial questions first. Then, if your prospect is chatty, you can ask the rest of your questions. If your prospect is brusque or to-the-point, ask the questions you need to ask, set the meeting date and save the rest of your questions till then.

You should, as much as possible, "prequalify" your prospect. Find out as much about the prospect and prospect company as you can. Once you've done that, eliminate the questions to which you already have answers.

There is no reason to ask a prospect, "Are you the person who purchases??" or "Are you the decision-maker?" If you have done your homework and prequalified your prospect, you should know the usual title of the decision-maker and/or in which area or department you will usually find that decision-maker. The rule is always to try to reach the highest level person whom you believe might be the decision-maker. If your decision-maker is usually found in the Human Resources area, ask for the Senior Vice President of Human Resources. When you have a conversation then, there is no need to ask, "Are you the decision-maker?" Of course they are! Or they may have delegated that authority, and if so, they will tell you that and give you the correct name.

Ask questions that solicit relevant information. There is no need to ask a prospect, "Are you familiar with? (your company, your product/service)?" You won't be getting any useful information with this question. It really doesn't matter if they are familiar. If they say they are, it does not guarantee that they know everything they need to know to understand the value of what you are offering. If you want to make absolutely certain that your prospect does understand the value of your offer, you must tell them. If they are not familiar with your company, why then, you still have to tell them.

It is far better to simply stay in control of the introductory calling process by telling your prospect what you would like them to know. Ask your questions on a real "need-to-know" basis. Keep them short and to-the-point, and then ask for what you want.

Wendy Weiss, "The Queen of Cold Calling & Selling Success," is a sales trainer, author and sales coach. Her recently released program, Cold Calling College, and/or her book, Cold Calling for Women, can be ordered by visiting http://www.wendyweiss.com. Contact her at [email protected]. Get Wendy's free e-zine at http://www.wendyweiss.com.

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