One thing that works well in technical sales is the analysis of technical specifications for a product or project. But for all other information sellers have to guess the truth. If I ask: "Who really makes the decision?", "How convinced is you customer?" or, "Who else is offering the product?", I get answers that start with: "I think that would be…" or, "I assume it's…" Unfortunately that happens over and over again.
That reminds me of the old German saying: "Believing doesn't mean knowing." (Glauben heißt nicht wissen). Unfortunately that is true. And an Arabian proverb says: "To ask good questions means to know a lot." Therefore, the most important tip I can offer you is:
Understand your customer as well and as broadly as possible!
Especially in the first half of the sales process, that is your most important task. And if you use the right questions it isn't even hard work. Essentially there are two starting points: Either the customer has a concrete demand or it's just an appointment to get to know each other.
In the first case you can go the easy route and ask, "Tell me, what have you planned?" And then you listen for 10-15 minutes, take notes and place one or the other question in between.
Don't forget to ask for the desired results and goals. That way you get the chance to offer different or even additional solutions the client hadn't thought about. And even if it's important to find out about the actual project, please do not forget to ask questions about the above-mentioned framework too.
In the second case of a general first meeting your questions need to be more general as well. First of all, get information about your client's company: "What do I have to know about your business?" Ask about the strategy: "Where do you want to go with your company?" And get to know the department in which you want to place your solution: "How are you organized in your section?"
If the client doesn't have specific demands yet, it's important to find out about possible problems. You can ask, "Which problems have occurred in the past that you couldn't solve to your satisfaction?" or, "If you could change one thing about your current supplier, what would that be?" In particular, search for problems that you are able to solve better than others.
One rule is especially important for me to mention: In this phase of understanding the customer should talk 90-95% of the time!
But I will be honest. This topic is way too substantial to explain it in a short blogpost. In my book I dedicate 22 pages to it alone and offer 83 questions. If you want to know more, order my book now: "Verkaufen und überzeugen mit Fragen." (Selling and persuasion with questions - sorry, only in German at present!).((