He who asks questions is attempting to be in control. That fact can be observed in any dialog. Asking questions directs the responses, and directs the dialog.
Questioning can take one of three forms:
1. Manipulative questioning
This is the riskiest of the three forms, somewhat resembling sleight-of-hand tactics. This is guiding responses in an orderly, progressive fashion that leads to a desired final result, but this method can backfire. The ‘victim” of this type of questioning can begin to feel backed into a corner, and ultimately resist any offer. These kinds of questions resemble this example: “You would have to admit that convenience is a major priority of yours, wouldn’t you?” I recommend that most of us resort to less confrontational methods of utilizing questions. This is for closers.
2. Informational questioning
This is the most risk-free type of questioning. With this form, the questions asked tend to demonstrate concern and sensitivity, and a desire to understand the customer and his/her business needs. This form does not necessarily lead to a foregone conclusion. A relative example would be, “What would be a high priority of yours?” You are allowing the respondent to seem in control, but you are drawing information out of them that you will need to effectively direct your sales approach.
3. Positioning questioning
This lies in the middle ground of the three methods, and definitely requires on-the-job testing to fine-tune. Positioning is both an art and a science. The better you become at questioning, the more control you will have in your business communications. The relative example is, “How do you envision this helping you?” This asks both an honest question and also encourages the client to visualize the benefits of your wonderful product or service. What you are doing is forcing them to think about the benefits, immediately, in order to respond verbally to the question. If the answer is positive, the underlying message is that the client would prefer to have the benefits that are represented by your offer.
This is a trial close, as close to a commitment as is reasonable to expect at this point. These kinds of questions can be incorporated into written or broadcast ads, as well as employed face-to face. The bottom line of any stimulus, once you have attractively and irresistibly presented your benefits, is to conclude with the honest (and manipulative…) question, “Can you see how this can be of benefit to you?” Once the conclusion is reached in favor of those benefits, and only after this conclusion has been reached, do you then ask the closing question, “Is there anything that would prevent you from going ahead with this right now?”
Daniel Wadleigh is a nationally published marketing consultant and has programs for start-up and existing businesses including effective web sites, e-mail/database, other non-internet ways to drive them to your website, and low cost ways to get more new customers.