Perhaps you got excited when you read the first part of the headline.
I got excited too, wishing there was a list of “magical” questions that could be asked of any prospect with a great result. The problem is, such a list does not exist.
Sorry to burst your bubble.
How about this one? What keeps you up at night?
Certainly you can ask anyone that, right? Wrong.
You may be able to ask this question but probably only as a follow up to an answer you get to a more timely and topical question.
Besides, how many of your prospects have already been asked what keeps them up at night?
Do you want to be like all those other salespeople reading their “greatest hits” questions off a sheet of paper they got in sales training? Or would you rather position yourself as someone who demonstrates empathy for the prospect and their unique circumstances, expertise with a track record of particular experience that could be helpful, and problem-solving capabilities that just might be valuable to the prospect?
So, how do you find a great needs analysis question?
How to Engage Prospects
1. Do Your Homework
No one has time to teach you about their business these days, so do your research on what is likely to be happening in their business (and their company) right now. Great needs analysis questions demonstrate your knowledge and preparation.
2. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions have a large number and type of potential replies where closed-ended questions are yes/no or multiple choice.
An example of an open-ended question is, "How is this particular trend impacting your business these days?"
3. Ask Easy-to-Answer Questions
Focused, limited questions are easier to answer than vague or broad ones. For example, "What is the one thing you spend more time on than anything else?" is easier to answer than "How do you spend your time in this job? "
4. Engage the Mind of the Prospect
Pose questions that are a little different, a little out of the ordinary, and perhaps even challenging. You’ll find the prospect enjoying the conversation and giving you more time.
"I’ll bet you don’t agree to meet with every salesperson. I’m curious. What made you decide to meet with me?"
5. Ask Questions That Build Your Credibility
Every question you ask, every sentence you utter, will either enhance or detract from your credibility, especially early on.
Which topics you choose, the correct use of language and terminology, and specific jargon all play a key role in building your credibility, unless you do it wrong.
Again, do your homework. If there is something that is still unfamiliar to you, it’s okay to ask more about it when you are there in person. Let the prospect know you have researched the topic and could still use their input to make sure you understand it properly.
In today’s world where information about companies, industries, and people is available online with just a few clicks and a curious mind, there is no excuse for not tailoring your needs analysis to each prospect. They will appreciate it and so will you when the prospect gives you more time and a specific assignment you can run with.
*Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in 2018 and has since been updated.