To get the proper takeaways from a meeting, you need to prepare yourself before going in. Here are some tips concerning which questions you should ask as well as a couple that you absolutely shouldn’t:
- “Why are you interested in our offerings?”
- “Why now?” as in “Why did you call us to have this meeting today?”
- “Are there particular departments or individuals that focus on energy efficiency in your business?”
- “How many projects have been proposed here in the past __ years?”
- “How many of those projects were approved and why?”
- “What has prevented projects from getting approved?”
- “Can you think of any previous efficiency measures that have been particularly gratifying? Why?”
- “How have you funded efficiency initiatives in the past?”
- “What kind of financial metrics do you use to evaluate projects?”
- “What projects or initiatives are on your wish list?”
- “What is the process for approving projects here?” – Feel free to exhaust this question. Follow up with “And then what? And then what?” until you reach the steps where the purchase order and notice to proceed are issued.
Here are some tips on what you shouldn’t ask:
- Never ask questions that could’ve been answered with a little research ahead of time. If you’re walking into a major university don’t ask, “So how many students do you have here?” You could have looked that up on your iPhone during the elevator ride to the meeting, and opening with that sort of question demonstrates a total lack of preparation on your part as well as intellectual laziness.
- Don’t open with “Could you tell me a little bit about your business?” That type of question suggests two things: not only have you never worked with a similar prospect, but you haven’t even done any homework to understand how what you’re selling may be helpful to someone in their industry. These are the sorts of things you should know before you show up for the meeting. Ideally, you should be able to cite situations where you’ve helped other customers who look very much like the one you’re presently meeting. At the very least, you should be able to connect the dots between your solution and some yardstick your prospect likely uses to measure their own success.
Failing to ask the right questions sets you up for failure. Following this advice will command your prospect’s respect, give you the data points you need to pursue a productive sales conversation, and greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll gain a customer.