Fact Finding Using The Funnel Questioning Technique

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Working on the basis that you are dealing with the “MAN” (the person with the Money, the Authority and the Need) you must very quickly assess if you have a potential prospect or not. In other words can their needs be met by the products and services you have to offer. It may not always be obvious to the prospect that they can use your products but your industry experience tells you that they can. In this instance we are looking for an opportunity to uncover some needs. You cannot create needs – but you can uncover them.

The key to uncovering needs lies in good questioning techniques. Questioning is a skill that requires much practice and concentration but once mastered serves you well because it allows you to:

SELL NOT TELL
Most people trying to sell talk too much. “They’re good talkers – they must be salespeople” or “all you need to be a salesperson is the gift of the gab” are often heard misnomers. Most prospects, at the sales stage, come to expect that a salesperson will probably talk at them, for too long and about very little, especially their needs. You want to do the unexpected with your prospects and sell not tell

LISTEN
If you are talking you are not listening! If you do not listen you will never find out enough information about the prospect or their needs. Apply the 80/20 rule – you should use questioning techniques so that the prospect is doing 80% of the talking and you are only doing 20%.

UNCOVER NEEDS – PAINLESSLY
Rarely do you get information unless you ask for it. You need information to sell your services or products and look for future sales possibilities. Skilful questioning means that you do not seem to be imposing on the prospect by asking too many questions.

TAKE CONTROL
Using questioning techniques you can control the prospect in almost any given situation. You can guide the prospect towards acceptance of your solution. Should you need to, you can use questioning techniques to regain control.

Probably the single most important skill that a salesperson can possess is good questioning techniques and it is certainly one of the most under-estimated and under used selling skill. Several other sales techniques also rely heavily on your ability to ask questions effectively.

TYPES OF QUESTIONS
There are basically 2 types of questions – open and closed (sometimes called indirect and direct). Open questions are used to get people to “open up” and get information whilst closed questions are used to solicit commitment and will get a yes or no answer.

Once again our 80/20 rule comes into play. You should analyse your questioning so as to make sure that you ask 80% open and 20% closed questions.

Unfortunately closed questions are easier to ask and we often have a “compliant client” we lapse into the bad habit of reversing the 80/20 rule and asking mainly closed questions. When you ask closed questions, even with the compliant client, you are doing yourself a great disservice. It will be as much by luck as judgement that you are getting any information at all and what you do find out will be limited.

Once the art of asking open questions is mastered we take the types of questions and expand and define them a little further so that we can uncover and then develop needs:-

Open Neutral Questions – These get un-influenced and non-specific answers

Open Leading Questions – For long influenced, specific answers

Closed Questions – To solicit a short, influenced answer, usually just yes or no

THE FUNNEL TECHNIQUE
This is a questioning technique, or rather a structure to use the technique within, that keeps you “on track” as you guide your prospect towards your service or product offering once you have uncovered the needs.

The technique relies on you using the prospects own words back to them and you must take notes. You will need to remember what the prospect says both now and possibly well into the future so do not rely on your memory

STEPS OF THE FUNNEL TECHNIQUE
There are four steps to the technique but that does not necessarily mean that it will always be only four questions:

. Motivate – why you are asking the questions
2. Open neutral questions – to get non-specific, un-biased information
3. Open leading questions – to get specific, biased information
4. Summary and/or get commitment with closed questions

STEP ONE
The first step is to motivate the prospect. You are going to hit the prospect with a barrage of questions so you want to prepare them for it. The best way to do this is with motivation not justification. You might consider using something they said to provide some “positive stroking”. For example “This is a substantial organisation you are running Mr Prospect.” They will be on the edge of their chair waiting to tell you about it in more depth! Be careful not to sound too patronising but top salespeople are genuinely interested to learn as much as they can about their client/prospect’s business.

STEP TWO
Now you have them relaxed, you can begin to probe for information – pegs to hang the sale on and “hot buttons”. You want to find out as much as possible without leading or influencing the prospect. You want to encourage them to talk. You could ask, for instance, “How is your company structured?” or “What does the partnership do?” Never use closed questions or be too specific – “Do you have a separate accounting office?” or “How do you handle civil cases?” is a definite no go at this stage.

At the second step you will more likely than not get several pieces of valuable information. You must take notes because you may want to go through the “funnel” with each piece and maybe several times.

STEP THREE
Once you have started to gather information and uncovered the “hot buttons” you use open leading questions to pin point specific areas that you want to explore, exploit or lead the prospect into – “So you have a marketing division and a service division (use their words from Step 2 and follow with the open leading question) in what way do these departments interact?” Again at Step 3, do not use closed questions.

STEP FOUR
Now you summarise using their words and information, so as to get their commitment of your understanding of the situation or their needs – “Well, Mr Prospect, you have outlined a substantial organisation to me. You have a service group and a marketing group and they need to interact and communicate on a daily basis. Is that about the scope of things?” You then wait for the commitment and go back to step one.

SUMMARY
Questioning using the funnel technique is one of the most powerful selling tools available to you. The key to its success is to practice using it. First of all work on your open questions and then start to consciously differentiate between open neutral and open leading.

When you become skilful with this technique, selling becomes a lot easier – making small orders big orders is easier too! You can make the prospect ask for the products or services you have to offer!

Just remember to ask…
HOW, WHAT, WHY, WHERE, WHEN, WHO, WHICH!

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