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How to Get Your Buyer Talking - Ask a Good Opening Question

Posted June 20, 2013
3 minute read

How can you get your buyer to tell you his biggest challenges and greatest fears? That’s the topic of this article. Asking good questions and actively listening to the buyer are very important activities, yet they are among the most difficult selling skills to master. Add on the importance of rapport building in any formal sales meeting, and you have two major challenges to overcome in your quest to get your buyer to be open and forthright.

A good opening question or “conversation starter” is key to starting right, and has three important benefits

  1. It gets the buyer talking about something important to him or her
  2. It begins to build a good rapport between you and the buyer
  3. It separates you from other salespeople

If you can successfully ask a good opening question when you meet your buyer, you will be on the road to developing a strong relationship and hopefully making a sale. Some research up front along with a comfortable delivery will lead to success.

Research to identify a topic for your opening question

First, you need to research your buyer. LinkedIn, Facebook and a variety of online resources are often the best methods. If you come up a little “cold”, go to LinkedIn and find a common connection, then ask that connection about the buyer (this tactic alone is grossly under-utilized).

Identify the technical, professional, business and/or personal interests of the buyer. If you come up with a common interest between the two of you, that’s the best. Otherwise, identify a topic of interest to your buyer that meets the following criteria:

  1. It will enhance the buyer’s self-esteem
  2. It is a topic that can be discussed in depth if necessary and appropriate
  3. It is something in which you are interested in and/or curious about

Once you’ve identified a good topic, the next step is to formulate the question.

Forming and delivering your opening question

Let’s say in your research you learned the following things about your buyer…

  1. She has travelled frequently to Europe
  2. She dresses fashionably
  3. She received a degree in engineering at University of VA
  4. She volunteers at a shelter for the homeless and indigent
  5. She mentors other female engineers early in their careers

Following are some examples of good opening questions based on what you know about this buyer…

  1. “While preparing for this meeting I learned that you actively volunteer at the Main Street homeless shelter. I’ve volunteer at shelters as well. What caused you to get started doing that and what’s it like volunteering at that shelter?”
  2. “While preparing for this meeting I learned that you helped start a program for
    mentoring female engineers early in their careers. That’s a great contribution. What caused you to start that and how has it been working?”

Notice I did not include examples of European travel, fashion or UVA. That’s because these topics don’t lend themselves to business, may not have the self-esteem impact of altruism or mentoring, and may not generate as much discussion.

If your opening question is a good one, your buyer will have a lot to say, and that will be your starting point to acquiring the information you’ll need to create a strong relationship
and make a sale.

Don’t get impatient and end rapport building prematurely. Remember, the rapport and relationship building phases are over when the buyer decides they are over. However, if you have a real talker that appears to have the energy to go on forever, a good question
that helps you get to the real purpose of the meeting might be something like, “That’s really interesting. By the way, how are we doing with your time?”

In summary, do proper research about your buyer, formulate and ask a good opening question that appeals to the interests and emotions of your buyer, and begin building a relationship that enables you to learn as much as you need to learn to determine if this is a
good customer for you.

Topics Sales, Sales Training

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Digital Marketing Specialist

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