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. While there are infinite questions to ask, the way in which you frame your inquiries is just as important.
Generally, there are three types of questions used in sales conversations:
Closed-ended questions typically result in a one-word response. “How’s your week going?” “Great!”
Open-ended questions require your prospect to include more information. “What did you do over the weekend?” “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.
Impact Questions have to be asked in a sincere and genuine manner. Here are some examples…
- What's the likely outcome if you keep doing what you're doing now?
- What are some of the factors or circumstances that can affect your financial planning?
- What transitions do you anticipate in the next 3-4 years and what must happen for you to feel successful with those transitions?
- Who are the people that are affected by the financial decisions you make?
- What are the top 2-3 priorities in your life now?
- How do you decide which charities/organizations to support? Who is involved in the decisions?
- When you think about your retirement five years from now, what do you envision?
- What do you see as the impact of moving forward?
- If we don’t develop a financial plan, what’s the potential impact 10 years from now?
- From your perspective, what would be the benefit of putting together a succession plan now versus five years from now?
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.
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 them into your conversation as it progresses. When you master this skill, your prospects are forced to think critically and determine the value of your services for themselves.
Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are thought-leaders with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. @StephenBoswell @KevinANichols www.oechsli.com