To learn those details we need to develop skill in asking questions. Skillful questioning is important because people are often reluctant to share information — especially in the initial prospecting stage.
So how can we motivate others to share information and avoid lockdown responses like, “Why do you need to know that?” or “I don’t have time to go into that right now”?
Getting prospects to ‘spill the beans’ and be more forthright often comes down to how you ask. Here are four approaches we’ve used again and again to help people feel more comfortable about sharing the details we need.
Sharing information about ourselves up front puts people at ease and encourages them to reciprocate. Take this scenario as an example, “Sorry if I’m a little scattered. My 16-year-old son left today for a three-week exchange program in Mexico, and I’m feeling sort of anxious. He’s never been away from home for that long before. You know how moms are.
“Now, can you tell me a little about your company and what made you open to my providing a competitive review of your insurance?….”
Frame Questions So People Know Exactly What You’re Asking For (& Why They Should Tell You)
When people are reluctant to give you details you can motivate them by first sharing others’ stories as a model. This approach leverages the power of social proof to help prospects feel more comfortable sharing information while giving them a clear example of the specific details you want.
A query like, “What sort of risk management procedures do you follow?” could elicit general responses that don’t really answer the question. Someone might say, “Oh, we follow the guidelines our insurance carrier recommends.” Even if you follow up with “Tell me more,” or “How’s that?” you still might not get very far: “You know, things like goggles and hard hats…”
But if you start with examples and ask for specifics, you’re more likely to get what you need: “No doubt you’re employing some risk management procedures, like requiring machine operators to wear protective eyewear, and not letting workers in the clean room without coveralls. Can you give me a list of all the measures you follow?
“I just had a great meeting with another distributor last week. It looks like we’re going to be able to save them a bunch of money and here’s what they told us about their operation…” Now you can give them a detailed description of the information you received from the other prospect and how you’ll need similar details to get the ball rolling for this proposal.
Give Them Good Reasons To Want To Answer
Influencing people to give you information, like any effort to sway others, works better when your request focuses on their needs.
- “I always start by asking a few questions. Your answers tell us how we can be the best resource for you.”
- “Knowing your current carriers helps expedite things so we won’t waste time researching the same ones to find the best coverage and pricing.”
“Rinse & Repeat”
When the responses are unclear or someone isn’t answering the question you’ve asked, paraphrasing their answer in your own words helps to strengthen the rapport and gives the prospect a chance to clarify what you’ve understood (or not understood).
Restating what you’ve heard is part of active listening. By letting the other person know you understand what he’s said, you’re reinforcing a sense of connection and that in turn encourages him to share more specifics.
“So in addition to your retail operation, you also distribute your products regionally to other retailers? How many trucks do you use on that side of the business?”
If you have favorite ways for encouraging more fluid responses to your questions we’d love to hear. Let us know in the comments field below, and good prospecting ahead!