The best question ever asked (or proposed to me) should be credited to Derrick Pick, President and Founder of Delaine Consulting Inc. Delaine Consulting designs and implements skills development programs for sales and customer service organizations. I had the pleasure of taking a 3 day relationship course with Derrick while employed at Compaq Computer Corporation (now Hewlett-Packard). His question is a variant on the “why” question. This question is the cornerstone of a program that led to a 516% sales increase over the course of 9 months at Compaq. (Pick, n.d.)
“Obviously you have a good reason for saying that, do you mind if I ask what it is?”
Why is it such a great question? The very nature of the word “why” is confrontational. “Why questions most often lead to a discussion of reasons. (Ivey, Ivey, & Zalaquett, 2010, p. 103) However, the word “why” invokes a response that is often defensive and will often “trigger an alarm” in most people. “Remember: Many clients associate why with a past experience of being grilled.” (Ivey et al., 2010, p. 103) The purpose is to reaffirm what the client has told you, and then get more detail into the specifics without saying the word “why.” Typically this statement is used during the sales process to overcome an objection. For example: Someone says “I’m not interested.” A good salesperson will drive deeper to see what the real objective is. Of course it’s possible that the individual simply isn’t interested, but we can’t accept that for an answer… quite simply, WHY are you not interested?
Intonation is the key to the use of this question. If you raise the pitch or tone of your voice at the end of the question it becomes a command. If you instead lower your pitch or tone at the end of the question, you have inadvertently given the client non-verbal permission to say “no” or “it’s none of your damn business” or “because I said so.” When I say the sentence, I start very “low and slow” with the acknowledgement portion… and then gradually raise the tempo, pitch, and tone of my voice as I say the portion after the comma. It’s the secret that has driven me to the heights of an award winning sales career, and one aspect of my sales background that I intend to modify and carry forward into my clinical counseling career.
Conversely, the best question I have ever asked is best described as “an A or B” closing question. It is a “checkout with purpose.” A good example would be “Would you like to try the basic cable or the digital cable?” There is an implied assumption in the question… you are going to buy cable from me… right here, right now. There is no “C” in which you hang up the phone and buy nothing. As soon as the client makes a choice at the A or B close. Another suitable example would be “So, would you prefer to try Cable and Internet, or would you like to bundle them both with phone for just 5 dollars more?”
Ivey, A. E., Ivey, M. B., & Zalaquett, C. P. (2010). Intentional interviewing & counseling (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Pick, D. (n.d.). Results: Some quantified highlights from our track record…. Retrieved June 28, 2010, from http://www.delaineconsulting.com/flinks.htm