Most sales professionals recommend using a sales methodology that involves uncovering a buyer’s biggest problem or pain point. While this is essential for sales success, it’s also only half of the story.
This type of approach often drives sellers to employ a “find-out-what’s-wrong-and-fix-it” mindset. Sellers hear a buyer’s complaint and often jump to problem-solving far too quickly. This can lead to:
- Missed opportunities to uncover a broader need set
- Solutions that address only symptoms and not the root of the problem
- A capabilities battle between you and your competitors
The most successful sales reps help buyers redefine their needs. Top performers not only get to the root of a buyer’s problem, but they also address the buyer’s goals and aspirations to uncover possibilities the buyer doesn’t even know exist.
To become one of these top performing sales reps, you must know what questions to ask. Keep reading to learn more!
Questions to Discover Aspirations and Afflictions
There are certain questions you can ask to uncover both aspirations—the buyer’s goals—and afflictions—the buyer’s pain points. Of course, the specific questions you ask during discovery will vary based on your particular company and industry. However, the following 10 sales questions help in almost every context:
1. If, at the end of this hour, you looked back and thought ‘that was an hour well spent’ what would we have covered?
What better way to run a meeting than to make sure you cover exactly what matters to the buyer. Plus, this question helps set the tone for the meeting, which ensures you’re not just focusing on a buyer’s problems.
2. Why isn’t this particular technology/service/product/situation/issue working for you right now?
Many buyers are willing to talk to sellers because something they’re currently doing or using isn’t working for them. As a sales rep, this question helps you uncover exactly what you’re up against.
3. Some of our client’s report problems with X, Y, and Z. How are these areas affecting you? What do you think about them?
This is another great way to establish expertise and industry credibility. It also asks the buyer to think about their challenges in different ways or consider challenges they hadn’t previously identified. The idea is to ask specific, open-ended questions that show you know the area well.
4. What’s holding you back from reaching your revenue goals?
Learning about obstacles early in the conversation is imperative. If the buyer believes an obstacle is insurmountable, it’s up to you to show them why it’s not and how they can get past it.
5. What goals and objectives do you have in general for your business? What goals and objectives do you have for this particular area?
Learning about your buyer’s hopes, goals, and aspirations allows you to focus on the positives during your conversations and uncover things the buyer hadn’t previously. Depending on your particular product, conversations like this open up a broader range of features, platforms, or services to the buyer.
So, even if the initial product isn’t a perfect fit, you may have another offer that will be of interest to the buyer. And, in the best case scenario, the buyer will be interested in all products and features—thus helping you and your team reach your revenue goals faster.
6. Assuming the buyer arranged the meeting—Why did you ask me to talk with you today?
You may already know why the buyer set the meeting, but it doesn’t hurt to revisit the question to make sure you’re both on the same page.
7. Assuming you set the meeting—As I mentioned earlier, I’d like to share a few ideas that have helped our clients succeed in the X, Y, and Z areas. Before we get going, is there anything else might you like to cover?
It’s possible the buyer had something else in mind when they accepted the meeting with you. This question is a good way to check in before you start talking to ensure the meeting is valuable for both parties involved.
8. In your opinion, what needs to happen to improve or change your current situation?
Knowing your buyer’s perspective on their own situation and how they think it can be addressed will give you an idea of things like company culture, how receptive they’ll be to your ideas, and how to frame your solution or product.
9. What kind of opportunities do you see for improvement in this area?
This is a great question to uncover both aspirations and afflictions. By getting the buyer to articulate opportunities for improvement, they’re likely to talk about both the problems they have in this area and their vision of their ideal scenario
10. What have you done in the past to address this issue or to reach this goal?
As you’re formulating a solution for your buyer, you don’t want to suggest something they have already tried and failed. Instead, want to build onto what they’re currently doing or change it altogether, neither of which you can do without this question.
And there you have it, our top 10 questions to uncover a buyer’s most important needs and goals. By focusing on both the buyer’s problems and their aspirations, you open up an entirely new discussion. By doing so you:
- Inspire buyers to think differently
- Bring value to the conversation
- Differentiate yourself from your competitors
- Uncover a broader set of needs, allowing you to propose a larger and more impactful solution set
These are all major factors in maximizing your sales opportunity win rate. And, ultimately, this approach can help you increase sales productivity to reach your goals faster and more efficiently without compromising your relationship with your buyers.
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About the author: Mike Schultz is a bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling, Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and President of RAIN Group, a global sales training, and performance improvement company. He and RAIN Group have helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 73 countries transform their sales results and unleash their sales potential.