While the perfect questions to position for a sale will, of course, depend on the nature of your business and your prospects or customers’ needs, there are simple frameworks and ‘good’ questions to ask.
BANT remains a popular framework and was first used by IBM several decades ago. It involves establishing whether there is a Budget, if the prospect has Authority and a Need and the Timing or time-scale of the proposed purchasing decision. However, BANT wrongly prioritises Budget over Need – the latter should always come first – and there may not even be an explicit budget. Indeed, it’s often up to the seller to establish value so that a budget becomes available.
We prefer CHAMP, which starts with CHallenge, and also comprises Authority, Money and Prioritisation, and share potential questions to establish each:
There’s a step before though. If the prospect is a (relatively) cold lead begin with general questions about the business and the processes in their domain. They’ll likely be engaged and a brief ‘general’ exchange can help build trust. In the absence of a degree of trust they may be less open about issues. Aside from, or in addition to, asking for description, invite the prospect to share:
“What does your company / department do really well today, what are you proud of?”
“What does success look like in the next year / three years – for the business and for you personally?”
They will most likely answer with enthusiasm and open up. Of course, you will have checked them out on LinkedIn and have explored any areas of commonality (you have connections in common, enjoy the same hobby etc.) to build rapport.
The ‘challenge’ may or may not be clear to the prospect. Your ‘solution’ may even brilliantly address a ‘challenge’ that the prospect isn’t aware they even have. On the other hand, in the worst-case scenario, the prospect may ‘simply’ be undertaking a price benchmarking exercise with little, or even no, intention of replacing the incumbent.
If similar goods or services are already being purchased quickly qualify or disqualify by enquiring:
“What aspects of current provision are performing well and which are causing concern or falling short and how?” or
“What’s your take on what needs to improve and how?” and
“Why is it proving difficult to address these with the incumbent” and “What steps have you already taken to address these?”
“What are you hoping will be different?”
These questions will help establish whether ‘just’ price or if there are service / quality shortcomings that you are potentially (but may not be) better suited to address.
If the challenge or opportunity isn’t currently being addressed, ask:
“When did you identify and why are you seeking a solution now?”
“What impact would a solution have on your business”
“What impact for you personally?” and
“What would be the consequences of not solving – for you and for the business?”
Figuring out together with the prospect how you can brilliantly address their challenge and deliver value makes the subsequent budget/money conversation much easier.
On average over 5 stakeholders are involved in each B2B buying decision, often from across different departments. So, even if you are already speaking to someone with decision authority, it’s unlikely they are the only one. Rather than putting them on the spot about their own authority ask:
“If we determine that our solution is potentially a good fit, who else needs to be involved in the decision?” or
“Does anyone else need to be involved and, if so, who?” and seek coaching about how to approach:
“Who else and how best to approach them?” and/or
“Could you help schedule a call/meeting so we can all discuss together?”
There may or may not be a budget in place. Either way it’s up to you to demonstrate value so that funds are made available. Determine:
“If we were able to solve Challenge x together what would that mean for the business (in terms of revenue, profitability, payback timing)”
“How have you evaluated similar products or services in the past?”
“Is there a budget in place or could you secure one relatively easily?”
“How are budget/investment decisions made in your organisation and what would the process look like to get to approval for this purchase?”
Prioritisation is another important build on BANT’s ‘Timing’ as it covers both timing and the potential scenario that your offer could compete with other priorities for ‘investment’. Useful questions include:
“Assuming we can demonstrate great ROI with our product/service are there other ‘competing’ priorities?”
“Do you have the internal resources and bandwidth to successfully implement now and, if not now, when?”
“Are you considering alternatives to our solution and, if so, what’s the timeframe for a decision?”
There are numerous other frameworks, all easily accessible via Google. Keep it simple and select (or develop) the one that works best for your business. Whichever way, train the sales team to qualify or disqualify with a set of incisive questions for better and faster growth.