I recently caught up with Craig Wortmann, a Clinical Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship in the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative (KIEI) and the Founder & Executive Director of the Kellogg Sales Institute. He is the founder and CEO of Sales Engine Inc. and serves as a Venture Partner at Pritzker Group Venture Capital. Craig shared his expertise on high-impact questions and sales performance with me. He explained that one discipline that separates low-to-moderate sales performers from high-performers is how they ask questions.
Types of questions
The first step in asking the right questions is knowing the difference between the types of questions you have in your arsenal. There are three main question types:
- Close-ended questions: Answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
- Open-ended questions: Require a more thoughtful response.
- High-impact questions: Incite emotion and/or reflection – these questions really make your customers think.
High-impact questions for high-impact sales
Closed- and open-ended questions are great for making sales. They keep the conversation moving along, but impact questions slow things down and allow your customer to provide deeper and broader answers, capturing more actionable information. This, in turn, enables you to better understand your customer, find their true pain points, and better deliver on the solution for which they might have not even known they were looking.
High-impact questions cannot be found on Google. They often determine the consequence, and most importantly, they turn vague ideas into something concrete. High-impact questions go beyond the usual sales questions. They make your customers think in the past, present, and future for their company.
You need to take what you currently know about your customer and what they want to accomplish with SAP, and frame that into a question that will yield greater insight into how you can help them accomplish their goals.
Instead of just asking the open-ended question, “What are your priorities for next year?” a high-impact question would ask, “If you get your priorities just right for next year, what does success look like?” This is going to make your customer reflect on both the current year and their future success. They won’t be able to answer right away, but it will challenge them to really think about the success they want and allow you to better gauge how you can help them achieve that success.
Since impact questions are meant to make your customers think, they require your effort to form. You need to take what you currently know about your customer and what they want to accomplish with SAP, and frame that into a question that will yield greater insight into how you can help them accomplish their goals. These questions should be prepared ahead of sales meetings and must fit the particular customer with whom you are working.
The perfect balance
High-impact questions are great, but the key is to keep these questions to a minimum and balance them out with open and closed-ended questions. If you ask too many high-impact questions, you will exhaust your customers, so it is important to show up to every sales meeting with one or two prepared.
With prepared impact questions, you will discover who your customers are as people and the goals they need to accomplish for their company. Focus on formulating more interesting and compelling questions that will allow you to build better relationships with your customers and close more deals.
Call to action
Hear more from Craig on asking high-impact questions and other networking techniques:
- How to ask impact questions
- Differences among open, closed, and high-impact questions
- Want to Network Like a Pro? Get Your Story Straight
- How to Maintain Your Social and Professional Connections
- How to Tell a Great Story
- For more from Craig Wortmann, connect with him on Social Media: