Ask questions to find out about the world itself, not to find out whether or not someone knows it.
– John Holt
Use H.O.T. Questions to Uncover Pain
When you question your client, you’ll want to ask questions that reveal important information about his or her condition. To help accomplish this, here is an easy-to-remember acronym. Make sure that you are asking questions that are H.O.T!
|H||High-Yield||For you to better prescribe a credible, meaningful recommendation.|
|O||Open-Ended||Begin with who, what, where, when, how and why.|
|T||Thought-Provoking||Cause the client to be intrigued and give deeper consideration.|
Here are examples of H.O.T. questions:
H = “If you could change one thing about your current supplier, what would it be?”
O = “What is your biggest challenge at this time?”
T = “How are you using your current telecommunications system to improve your competitive advantage?”
Make sure that you write down what your buyer says in response to each. When he begins discussing his current supplier, for example, listen for and record comments dealing with any of the following:
- Incompetent or apathetic customer service
- Quality issues
- Product limitations
- Buyer’s remorse
- Frustrations due to delays or broken promises
- Poor response from the salesperson
What you’re really listening to are sensitive issues, leverage opportunities, and ways to improve your client’s condition. Keep an eye on their facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. Often you can detect discontent or frustration simply by observing non-verbal messages.
Begin to develop a list of H.O.T. questions you can use during interviews. You want to come up with several that will accomplish the following:
- Provide you with a global understanding of your client’s business.
- Give you a clear picture of his or her challenges.
- Reveal pain.
- Directly or indirectly point to the uniqueness and advantages of your products and solutions.
- Show you where to focus your presentation.
Know Your Unique Advantages and Differentiators
Great questioning begins with a strong grasp of your value proposition and your differentiators (things that set you apart). While it’s important to understand your products, it’s not nearly as important as understanding how your offer improves your client’s business and produces positive outcomes. Once you understand the unique advantages of your offer, you can begin designing questions that directly or indirectly point your clients to them.
For example, if you sell ergonomic chairs, your clients are not concerned about the technical specifications of the chair. They simply want more comfort and fewer employees with back problems.
“In essence, you’re not really selling a chair; you’re selling comfort and reduced medical expenses.”
So, what are the unique advantages of your offer? What makes your product or service special? If this is not clear to you, take the time to create a list of things that set you apart. If a client asks you, “What makes you different than the other forty suppliers?” you should be able to answer them with a clear, compelling response.
Perhaps your offer’s characteristics are not distinguishable and you view your offer as a commodity. Don’t forget that there are a number of unique advantages you can deliver to your clients beyond simply the main products and services you offer. You can provide other things such as:
- better service
- faster shipping
- stronger packaging
- and more appealing shelving displays.
Plus, in the commodity sales world, the biggest differential component is the salesperson – not the product.
Move from General Questions to Specific Questions
Once you have a clear understanding of your unique advantages and differentiators, you can begin developing your H.O.T. questions. Start with general questions that don’t require much thought from your client and are easy to answer. Then, transition to more specific, narrower questions that will point him or her to your solution.
- “What type of product does your supplier currently use?”
- “What do you like about the current supplier’s product?”
- “What do you dislike about the product?” or How often does that happen?” (follow-up question)
- “How often do you replace this product?”
- “Are your staff members using Type A or Type B of this product?”
- “What is the life-span of your current products?
- “What were the criteria or deciding factors behind purchasing the product from your current supplier?”
- “If you could change one thing about the product you are getting from your supplier, what would it be?”
- “When you order a new product, how long is delivery time?”
Practice Makes Perfect
After you’ve created your H.O.T. questions, take some time to practice with an associate or friend. Role-playing the interview will help you perfect it, giving you a chance to practice active listening, uncovering your client’s pain, and discovering opportunities to help him or her. Practicing before you need to use your H.O.T. questions will give you the edge when it is time to apply the technique to landing a sale or future client.
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Trushar Mody is BUSINESS STRATEGIST, SOFT SKILLS TRAINER, OUTSIDE-THE-BOX THINKER AND THOUGHT PROVOKER. He is a Warehouse of knowledge and wants to share it. His passion lies in teaching Wholestic Learning and Emotional Intelligence.
Trushar Mody is a role model who has extended himself to help others along their own journeys. He works from his passion of helping people live their lives with purpose and without fear. He is a managing partner and senior trainer at Encore Consulting Group.