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Asking the Right Questions: The Key to Building Lasting Business Relationships with Prospects 

You’ve worked hard to get your prospect on the phone or land a meeting. 

After countless emails and even more voicemails, you’ve finally got your prospect on the phone. Even better, you’ve landed a Zoom meeting. 

Before that started, you had to find your perfect target, so you focused on maintaining a near-perfect prospect list.

Great job.

Now, it’s time to ask questions—you know, to get to know the prospect and push them toward a deal. But not just any questions, though. The key to building lasting—and profitable—relationships with your prospects is to ask the right questions. 

Your level of question specificity could be looked at as a funnel:

Relationship-building funnel for sellers
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Introduction Questions

Questions at this stage of the relationship-building process with your prospects should be high-level and aimed at building rapport. Nothing more, nothing less. Said another way, they’re questions you would ask almost anyone. 

While these questions may seem insignificant to your ultimate goal of closing a deal, their relationship-building prowess is exponentially more important in the post-pandemic world. According to McKinsey & Company, more than 70% of buyers no longer want to meet sales reps in person but are open to remote meetings. 

These “introductory” questions can go a long way in fostering your relationship with prospects and setting a foundation to close a sale.

For example: 

  • How is your business going?
  • What are you doing this weekend/how was your weekend?
  • I’ve gotten a sense of your business from your website and marketing
  • materials, but I’d love to hear more from you. Can you tell me what you’ve been up to this quarter? 
  • How did you hear about us? (Your marketing team will love you for this one.)
  • What was your experience buying X?
  • When was the last time you purchased X?

After you get through these top-level questions, it’s time to dive deeper and connect with your prospects in a meaningful, solution-focused way; it’s time to bring your product into the equation.    

Getting-to-Know-You Questions 

Questions at the “getting-to-know-you” stage are more profound and specific but still open-ended. At this point, the conversation should still be engaging. 

While the questions are still higher level, they should be time-specific and geared toward your prospect’s company, their experience, and what they’re trying to accomplish with your product (at least at a high level). 

For example: 

  • What is most important to you and your team right now?  
  • Who typically works with you to make buying decisions?
  • What is your biggest area of focus in the first six months of the year?
  • You specialize in X niche. Why did you choose it?
  • Did you use a checklist or comparison matrix to help you make a purchase decision for X?
  • Can you walk me through the process you’ve used to fix X problem?

By asking your prospect open-ended yet specific questions, they will be more inclined to be transparent and honest with you. 

Getting-Personal Questions

Not personal in how you’d talk to a friend or a colleague at a work event; personal in the sense that you’re starting to understand why your prospect is looking for a solution like yours. More importantly, you’re trying to figure out if there’s a match. 

For example: 

  • How will solving this problem or achieving this business goal impact your organization and you personally?
  • Have you used similar products in the past? If so, what was your experience? 
  • How will you be “grading” the impact of this product? Which metrics will you use, and who will you report to? 

Knowing your product or solution’s impact on your prospect and their team is essential because it helps you better understand their mindset and focus on a specific, meaningful, mutually beneficial end goal.

Relationship Building is a Question-based Process

To grow your business, it’s your responsibility to make your buyer understand your solution is helping them overcome real-life problems – not hypothetical ones. 

If you follow a discovery process that includes asking the right questions, the buyer will lay out a roadmap for how you close more business.

To know what questions you should ask, it’s important to consider your prospect as a person and nothing else.

Think about the process of becoming strongly acquainted with another person. The first thing you do is introduce yourself, plain and simple.

After breaking the ice, you begin getting to know the prospect a bit more. You learn about who they are, where they’re from, and their current situation.

From there, you get personal. As your questions get more personal, they get more specific. This is where you learn about the other person’s why or intent.

Once you completely understand the other person, you can form a meaningful, mutually beneficial partnership. This, in its entirety, is the framework for deciding what questions to ask your prospects.

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