In today’s Sales Insight blog post I want to discuss the topic of questioning skills and share our GRID questioning structure with you.
If we want to increase sales, we understand that it’s about being able to create compelling value propositions for our customers. Opportunity typically comes when your customer’s needs overlap with your product and service offers. So if we want to increase the number of opportunities we have, we need to understand these needs and be able to offer better value propositions.
Questioning skills; being able to ask the great questions, allows us to understand the potential business wins that the customer’s looking for, and also the personal wins that they might get from implementing our product or service offer. On the product and service side, by understanding a bit more we’re able to offer new and better targeted propositions, and the number of opportunities available will likely increase.
Let’s look closer at questioning skills
A nice exercise I often recommend if you’re a sales leader is to organise your team into pairs and get one person to sell their hobby to the other, who should mildly resist. This will only take two or three minutes but, while they’re doing the selling process, just assess how much time the seller is talking versus the buyer.
We know from research and our own experience that share of voice is one of the biggest single determinants of success. If we can get the buyer talking for approximately 75% of the time and the seller only 25%, our chances of success increase. Remember, it’s not just about the amount of time you have as a seller, it’s what you do with that time. Have a balance of enquiries and advocacy to give you the maximum insight into the customer’s situation and understanding their needs.
How to use the GRID questioning structure
At Salestrong, we’ve created a model questioning structure called GRID that really improves sales people’s ability to ask the right kind of questions.
- Goal – aim for questions that will help you understand what it is your customer is trying to achieve, both from a business and personal perspective.
- Review – look at the current situation and understand some of the challenges the customer might face and what’s going on in their environment.
- Impact – the most powerful part of the structure is to ask questions that uncover any potential pain or problems the customer is experiencing, or any gain they could get or are looking to achieve.
- Decision – understand what is important to the customer and make a decision. What is the decision criteria, is there anyone else that needs to be involved, what kind of time frames have they got in place?
This is a go anywhere, go everywhere model because the sale’s conversation is organic. We wouldn’t necessarily carry it out in this order – we might start with Impact and find a potential customer pain, and then move to Goal to say how you could fix that issue knowing what goals they are aiming for.
Using the TED questioning structure
There are certain kinds of questions that are going to help your customer open up more effectively. I recommend preceding every question with Tell, Explain and Describe and you’ll find you get much more open responses.
So let’s work around the grid and come up with some simple questions that will help improve your understanding of customer needs:
- Goal – ‘what can I help you with?’ ‘what goals and aspirations do you have?’ or ‘what would you like to achieve?’
- Review – ‘what is your current situation?’ ‘tell me some of the background to this,’ ‘describe that.’
- Impact – pain ‘what is the real cost of that issue?’ ‘how does that impact…?’ and gain ‘how much would that benefit…?’ or ‘what is the real impact of that?’
- Decision – ‘how will you make a decision?’ ‘who is involved?’ ‘what timescales are you working to?’ ‘what is most important to you?’
The GRID questioning structure in action
A great exercise to do with your sales people is get them to think of a recent customer interaction and populate their own GRID with the kind of answers they received from the customer. The first thing you’ll note is whether they got a full understanding of the customer; if the GRID is relatively empty there’s probably more work to be done on the questioning skills.
The GRID questioning structure can be used in real or role play situations. Another helpful task is to organise your team into threes, with one person being the seller, one the customer and the third observing. Their role is then to try and find out from the ‘customer’ what is on their GRID, with the observer giving feedback.
If you’d like to have a chat about implementing this more effectively for yourself as an individual sales person or in your organisation if you’re a sale leader, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
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