Socrates Teaches Us to Ask the Right Questions for the Right Proposal

socrates1 More than two thousand years later, the Socratic Method is still the most proven sales success story today. Just like how your hubby or wifey doesn’t want to hear about your day until you ask them about his or hers, your clients don’t want to hear your spiel, until they’ve told you theirs.

The fastest way for a client to say yes to your proposal is by responding to their needs. And you can’t truly know their needs until you ask the right questions. Today we are going to give you some of the questions we’ve used to get proposals successfully signed, and we hope that you will Comment and add your best sales questions at the end!

There are two types of questions: closed and open-ended. There’s no doubt that you will quadruple the quality of response with the latter. Open-ended questions are the keys to Socratic Sales Success. Socratic selling is the opposite of the average car salesman — you don’t sell features. You ask a series of open-ended questions which reveal client needs and respond with the benefits of your service or product that provides solutions to those needs. This two-and-a-half-millenia-old plan for success argues that by asking the right questions, you will eventually compel your target to want to buy your product or service.

Bonus, when you ask questions like this, your customer actually takes time to think about what he or she wants and is more able to express it.

Now, try some of these questions on your next sales call and never type up and send out a blind, cookie-cutter sales proposal again.

Socrates2To start with

  • How are you doing today?
  • Tell me a little bit about yourself/your company.
  • How does X function within your business?
  • Are you interested in improving the result of the X part of your company?
  • What are your plans for the future of your company?

Get to know your client’s needs

We cannot stress it enough — sorry, but it’s all about them, not about you. The more information you have about your potential client, the more likely you are to get that e-signature at the end of your business proposal.

  • What is a challenge your company is facing today? (Remember, “challenge” is the positive way to say “problem.”)
  • Always a good follow-up: That’s interesting. Can you tell me more about that?
  • What are you currently doing to address X? (X, in this case, involves repeating back to someone, verbatim, what problem they just revealed.)
  • If you could, what is one thing that you would change immediately about the X aspect of your business?
  • What else could give me a better understanding of your company’s pains/positives in X area?

Socrates3Frame questions to respond to resistance

Instead of responding to your client’s pains with, “Well, we can fix that easily! We have X number of years of experience in X number of things that will make your life so much better!” Go with something along these lines:

  • If you had someone who could do X for you, would that solve your problem?
  • If X happened, would your company be able to do X?
  • I’m sorry to hear that. What makes you feel that way?
  • I understand that normally Company X provides this service for you. May I ask why? What could make you consider another provider?
  • You said our price is too high. Why do you think it’s too high? What are you looking to spend for what services?
  • At that price, what service/outcome do you expect?

Reveal the sexiness of Out-Sourcing

The benefit of outsourcing services is that it saves your client time and money, and it puts people with experience (you!) in the position to achieve the best outcome. But instead of just blurting that out, ask them questions to guide them to those benefits.

  • How much time do you spend doing X?
  • How does that time commitment affect your day to day?
  • How much funds do you dedicate to the staff that does X?
  • What could you be spending that time doing instead?
  • How much training does your staff receive in doing X?

Show me the money

OK, don’t pull a Cuba Gooding, Jr. — it’s usually perceived as rude when not paired with back flips around a football stadium — but you just gotta talk money. It may feel awkward to you — and me — but this bottom line is crucial to how you develop the part of the contract that your client spends more than half his or her time on. Of course, this very well could be on their RPF, but if not, you gotta have the talk.

  • What sort of budget were you looking to work with here?
  • Have you outsourced this service/bought this sort of product before? How much did it cost you?
  • What do you expect to pay for X?

Socrates4And finally…

Finish with the question my district sales manager taught me years ago, Is there anything else I should be asking you? More often than not, this is where your clients will share something they or you hadn’t thought of before.

Then, when you feel confident you’ve uncovered all the information you can and you feel ready to present them your sales proposal, it’s time to lay the cards on the table with: What could we do to get you to sign with us today?

The answers your excellent questioning yields should guide your entire proposal-writing process. (Which, don’t forget, means you have to actively listen to those answers.) Your proposal should restate the pains and needs of your potential client and should look to specifically explain how your company is best suited to respond to those concerns. And, besides a thorough outlining of pricing, there’s not much else to your proposal. Keep it short, sweet and to the point, while addressing every need your client told you — either in an RFP or in response to your questioning — and you are sure to be emailing them a winner of a proposal.

Now, what questions are we missing? What do You ask to open windows to opportunity and doors to sales?

Photo from fabulous Fotolia!


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