“I don’t know if I don’t ask”

This is a good softener to your bold questions with prospects.  Prospects respect bold questions (that come across the right way), and will respect you a lot more for asking them.  Softening the blow with ‘I don’t know if I don’t ask’ will make you and your prospect feel that much better about what you’re asking, and gives a reason why you’re asking it, allowing them to share more with you. 

Is it fair to say?

On a discovery call, this is always a thoughtful, yet effective way to ask a prospect a question based on what they’ve shared with you. Thoughtful and effective is the sweet spot. Some examples would be “Is it fair to say that you could have saved money if you…,” “Is it fair to say the team just has not paid much attention to…,” This allows a prospect to admit what could have been done better, causing more call to action, without being offended.

Not sure

On a CONSULTATIVE discovery call, although you may be speaking with a prospect who on paper could be a perfect fit for your service, it’s important to indirectly convey that you’re careful about who you work with, just as they’re careful about working with you.  As Amy Volas so clearly mentions, “you don’t need your prospect if they’re not the right fit for you.”  Operating under this context also allows you to ask more thought provoking questions, and causes them to take you more seriously.

Keeping it light

Phrases like ‘Thought it was worth,’ ‘Figured I would ask,’ and ‘Curious to understand’ help keep your sales discussions conversational and professional, increasing likelihood of trust and rapport.  They express your curiosity, while simultaneously maintaining a sales conversation VS a Q&A. Try them. 

The Middle Man

The beauty about sales is that you are the middle man/woman between the clients you speak with and the prospects you sell into.  As a result, you’re advantage is having DAILY INSIGHT from your prospect’s competition, that THEY are not aware of. Therefore, framing your questions with something like “What I personally hear from firms like yours is that they’re having problems with XYZ, how do you feel about that in relation to your group?,” is used to your advantage, because this is where a genuine conversation begins.

Why are you here?

Sales is very difficult, yet very rewarding when done right.  You have to be quite resourceful, yet without the right support from your company, you won’t succeed.  ‘WHY ARE YOU HERE?’ was a sign I would post on my desk when coming into the office, reminding me that despite the distractions one has at work (and there are many), whether it be a tough environment, a tough co-worker, not enough support etc, you are at work to do your very best, every damn day.  Try hanging the sign up. You’ll be surprised how much it helps.

Who you are not

I find it helpful to also explain to your clients what your firm is NOT.  A lot of prospects may have misunderstandings about you, so immediately positioning the discussion around what you do NOT do, making it very clear up front, helps get rid of that noise immediately, and most likely peaks their interest further.

Asking the extreme

I find that asking the extreme version of a question brings your prospect to conclude that your ask is not unfair at all, increasing the likelihood of any next step, including negotiations.  Questions like “Is that a bad idea? Is that unreasonable? Does that sound crazy? Is that not accurate?” brings your prospect closer to moving forward in any step of your sales process.

It’s not too late…

After you hop off the phone with a prospect, you’ll sometimes realize that you forgot to ask them an important question, like how their team is structured, or what their decision making process is, etc.  Don’t sweat it!  You can just send an email with  a “forgot to ask you” subject line, and you’ll get your answer!  In fact, their response shows you they are engaged! You can usually climb back to the top if you fall here and there. 

You don’t know…

SDR’s and AE’s sometimes feel that if they reached out to someone a number of times and do not get any response, they move on.  My philosophy is always follow up in a professional manner until you get a response one way or another.  You don’t really know what’s happening on the other end, and many times they will get back to you wanting to talk, and apologizing for not being able to respond.  It can’t hurt.  What’s the worst that can happen really?