The BEST Prospecting Question Ever
Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Sales Tips

The BEST Prospecting Question Ever

April 14, 2012

by Tony Vidler.

I thought I’d share the best prospecting tip I ever heard….so simple, but soooo clever.
Many years ago a fantastic adviser that I knew well (since retired) working in rural town in New Zealand managed to be one of the top producing agents for well over a decade using this simple technique. 

He would simply ask the people he knew – but who were not clients – as he wandered around doing his business a question. Well, it was two questions really.

The first queston was “Do you mind if I ask you something?” 

Invariably people respond: “of course not”. Think about the psychology of that simple opening; a courteous request, seeking permission (so not in obvious control of the discussion), and virtually impossible to deny if you are the person being asked the question. It would be rude to say no, wouldn’t it, and nobody wants to appear rude? So everyone agrees that he could ask them a further question.
The key question that followed was: “Can I ask you why you have never done business with me?” (said very politely, quizzically, and most emphasis upon the “me”). It is an almost apologetic approach that caused no offence or discomfort to people as he was careful to set it up correctly, and ask the question in the right tone.
Responses varied of course, but could be grouped into a simple set of about 4 types of responses:
1. I have a great adviser and am happy
2. You never asked me to do business with you
3. I thought you were too busy/tooexpensive/too….something or other
4. I don’t know why I never have/I’ve never thought about it.

In the case of the first response (I have a great adviser!), the best course of action is to congratulate them, thank them for answering, and move on from that topic. Stay engaged in the conversation of course, but leave that topic. In doing so you have been just as courteous and respectful, and unintrusive.
In all other cases though, the opportunity for a business discussion has just been created….

This is an incredibly simple technique for determining whether you should be having a business discussion with people you know. It causes no offence (if asked correctly), the prospective client has given you permission to ask the question, and then feels compelled (having given you permission) to respond sincerely.
The follow up to engage the prospecive client in the business conversation was also a very politely framed question, that usually started with “I’m sorry I never explained properly how I help people, do you mind if I go through that with you sometime?” 

The overwhelming proportion of people would then agree to meet up later and have a business chat….and that is how a single adviser working in a small rural town became one of the best producers and most popular people in the region.
Try it sometime, and you’ll be amazed at how many people you know will be willing to talk business with you – if you just ask the right questions, the right way!

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