Ask almost any financial advisor if questions are important in the sales process, and you’re guaranteed a resounding “yes.” But if you ask those same professionals if they have a strategy for asking questions, you will rarely get the same response. Generally, there are three types of questions used in sales conversations…
Closed-ended questions typically result in a one-word response. Question: “How’s your week been?” Response: “Great!”
Open-ended questions require your prospect to include more information. Question: “What did you do over the weekend?” Response: “We played 9 holes on Saturday morning and then….”
Impact questions dig deeper by making your prospect think. They enable your prospect to clearly see the importance of their identified problem and the solution you offer. They are a thought-process — not a sales push. They are highly influential for three main reasons. They…
- Give you a better understanding of the prospect’s thought process.
- Help your prospect by forcing them to think critically and analyze their current situation.
- Make your prospect feel like you truly understand their unique situation.
Examples of Impact Questions
Impact questions have to be asked in a sincere and genuine manner. They should never come across as challenging, accusatory or manipulative. Instead, they should feel naturally inquisitive. Here are some examples…
- When you think about your retirement five years from now, what do you envision?
- What’s the likely outcome if you keep doing what you’re doing now?
- Who are the people that are affected by the financial decisions you make?
- What do you see as the impact of [action] versus [inaction]?
- If we don’t develop a financial plan, what’s the potential impact 10 years from now?
- What are the top 2-3 priorities in your life now?
- What transitions do you anticipate in the next 3-4 years and what must happen for you to feel successful with those transitions?
- How do you decide which charities / organizations to support? Who is involved in the decisions?
- From your perspective, what would be the benefit of putting together a succession plan now versus five years from now?
Embrace any Awkward Silence
The answer to an impact question is never a knee-jerk response. It takes reflection on the part of the prospect. Thus, expect a bit of silence to follow… and embrace it. Your prospect may also attempt to short-cut or shrug off their answer. In those scenarios, embrace silence even more. With enough silence they will fill the space with a more robust response.
Preface for Better Responses
By the way, you don’t want to dive immediately into this type of in-depth conversation — you have to warm up to it. Naturally weave these questions into your conversation as it progresses. Sometimes, they require prefacing. Prefacing is a short statement before your question to clarify your rationale for asking your impact question. For example, “In order for me to truly understand your priorities, [insert impact question.]”Prefacing removes any mystery around why you are asking your question and typically elicits a better response. When you master this skill, your prospects are forced to think critically and determine the value of your services for themselves.
Kevin Nichols is a partner with Oechsli, a firm that specializes in research, training and creative services for the financial services industry. @KevinANichols www.oechsli.com