Question based selling is a framework that can help you close a higher percentage of your opportunities.
Have you ever felt like you’ve “seen behind the curtain?” You sort of feel Neo escaping the Matrix… because you know how to sell. It’s empowering, isn’t it? You see the world for how it is, where people are constantly persuading (or “selling”) one another. It’s part of day-to-day life, yet few people see it. It’s in almost every interaction you have with someone. Selling is in every decision that you make. Of course, you can’t tell people you work in sales and marketing. That’s a no-no, because then they may put their guard up. It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to do, even if it’s making plans to go to the movies! They may feel like you’re trying to sell them. Don’t worry. It’s not your fault, and it’s not really theirs, either. After all, when you have a qualified prospect on the phone with you—hot damn, you just want to CLOSE! That’s where question-based selling can benefit you most. Allow me to explain…
Question Based Selling: A Definition and Key Benefits
Definition: Using questions (in an ethical way) to guide a sales discussion toward a positive outcome for both parties. You want to use questions when you’re selling to learn about your prospect and his goals. We’ll touch more on this later, but you want to mention why your product may be a fit for his needs. This is win-win, because even if the product is not a fit, you gain a stellar reputation with the customer. You can say, “OK, I don’t think our products are going to be work for you, but let me suggest another option.” You don’t waste the customer’s time, and they will value that. They will remember you for it. If they find someone else who is a fit, they’re going to trust you and suggest you. That relationship is invaluable. You don’t waste the customer’s time, and they will value that. Click To Tweet The key benefit to question based selling is saving time. You also improve your reputation. Lastly, you will drive more referrals from those who are not a fit. You also make the whole selling process easier. You don’t have to be aggressive. The customer or prospective client will enjoy communicating with you more. Since, again, people often have their guard up. In this situation, you can steer the conversation where you need it to go to determine if the customer is a fit. If they’re not a fit, you can usually figure out why through asking questions. It may be an issue of pricing, a timeline or even lack of information.
Examples of the Question-Based Selling Process in Action
Ryan Levesque’s Survey Funnel System Increases Company’s Revenue by $750,000 in Less Than a Week We’ll talk more about author Ryan Levesque and his book Ask later. Right now, we’re going to touch on his other famous creation: the Survey Funnel System. Live Energized, the company that made use of this funnel, only had to use certain parts of it to see major sales. The company is best-known for its water ionizer. This type of product isn’t a quick decision for a customer, though. They need to know a lot about it before purchasing. This is where Levesque and his Survey Funnel System came in. Levesque began with email surveys to discover more about Live Energized’s customers. Even if they didn’t buy the water ionizer, these customers had purchased from Live Energized in the past. After analyzing results, Levesque suggested Live Energized make videos advertising the water ionizer. These videos made use of specific language gleaned from the email surveys. In all, the company filmed three videos. One video was a product demo that covered any questions potential customers had. The demo video also featured a five-day offer to shop. Sales jumped to $750,000, selling out the ionizer within that five-day offer period. Servekillers Makes Use of Survey Funnel System Over Six Months, Rakes in Nearly $250,000 Will Hamilton is the founder of tennis companies Fuzzy Yellow Balls and Servekillers. Awhile back, he hit a sales wall. Servekillers was the newer of the two companies. Its purpose was to improve a tennis player’s serving skills. Without a sales system, though, sales spiked then tapered off. That’s when Hamilton called on Ryan Levesque. He too used a Sales Funnel System. Unlike Live Energized, Hamilton utilized the full system for six months. Levesque helped Hamilton with bucket surveys, videos, sales letters, follow-up emails and landing pages. One video demo even featured Pat Rafter, a tennis pro. Levesque’s guide also answered questions customers had about Servekillers and its products. Within a week, sales had improved by $25,000. Six months later, that revenue increased to nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Note: Are you creating your own online funnel or want to optimize what you have to grow faster? Check out my free 7-point sales funnel checklist right here.
The Four Gateways of Question Based Selling
I first learned about question based sales through a Mixergy interview. The host, Andrew Warner, was interviewing Nicholas Holland, founder of Centresource. Holland spoke on his business method to consistently close five and six-figure deals with both big and small clients. Even Adobe. He called this process the four gateways. This is a very logical process because it prioritizes the client’s needs. It also provides a very practical framework to avoid wasting time with sales that aren’t a fit. When I first practiced question based selling, I made $16,000 within the first two weeks. I was very rigid with how I implemented it. I would actually tell prospects on the phone that I had this four-gateway process. Even though I was very rigid, it worked to build trust and close deals. That first deal was a small five-figure deal, but it just shows that it works. The four gateways are as follows:
1. Show Interest and Work to Understand Customer Goals and How These Fit with Your Solution
You’re going to spend the most time on the first gateway. I mentioned earlier how important it is to understand the person’s goals. This helps build trust. Even if you can’t provide them with the product they need, they can become a referral source. Because you built their trust.
2. Determine How the Decision Will be Made
If at any of the gateways you get to, it’s not a fit and there’s not solid agreement between the parties, end the discussion. You can always reschedule if needed.
Pricing is where you ask clients if they have a budget for their project. If not, you can give a range, such as between $1,000 or $3,000 depending on X conditions. Then you can check if that range works.
4. Overall Timeline
Lastly, you decide on the timeline. When will the working relationship begin? How long will it last? What will be delivered and when? Try to stick as closely as possible to the promised timeline to maintain trust.
How to Automate Question Based Selling with an Email Funnel
Now we’re back to Ryan Levesque, the author of Ask. He has a lot of stories and examples in his book that talk about how to email people questions. You provide them options of how to answer. Based on their answers, you send them a different set of follow-up emails and let them guide their own path. You assist them and provide value along the way. That said, what is an email funnel? It’s a series of emails designed to funnel people towards a purchase decision. It’s also known as an autoresponder or marketing automation. In the case of service businesses, that means pre-qualifying customers and scheduling a phone call. An email funnel is a key component to a sales funnel, which is what we specialize in here at AutoGrow. An email funnel is a key component to a sales funnel. Click To Tweet Allow me to explain how to create your own survey (aka question-based) email funnel.
Step #1 – Create a Simple Survey
Automating question-based selling with an email funnel is quite simple. You don’t need to get too advanced, although you can in the long-term with loops and if-then scenarios if you want. Your first step is to make a survey. Again, keep it simple. Make it so that the whole email funnel provides an extremely personalized experience. That’s the name of the game with automation. You want to personalize the email with who they are and what kind of business or customer they are. For a good example of this, check out our 10-second survey.
Step #2 – Set up Your Email “Buckets”
Once you have the survey in place, set up your email buckets. What does this mean? A bucket is the autoresponder or sequence that’s based on customer survey responses . We have five or six buckets we use at AutoGrow. These are personalized, referring to startups or freelancers or the like. Your email is personalized right away based on the person’s survey responses. Now you’re personalizing it even further based on who they are.
Step #3 – Turn on the Traffic
You have traffic coming to your website already. You can either let cold prospects know about this by re-engaging them, or you can reach out to a new audience. With my company, if someone opts in to our newsletter, we immediately redirect them. We offer to personalize their content through our services.
Question based selling is basically where you sell by asking questions. This creates trust between the customer and your company. Even if you find your company can’t help them, that customer becomes a referral source. They might think of someone else who can benefit from your services. To review:
Question-based selling should always be personalized. Just remember to keep it ethical.
You can save a lot of time with this process (both yours and the customer’s) making it a win-win for everyone involved.
The process of question-based selling relies on four gateways. You can learn more from the book Ask by Ryan Levesque.
If you want to try out in question-based selling, remember to start simple. You can always add advanced processes later.
Check this out for even more sales funnel examples. Have you ever used question based selling for your business? How did it go? Do you plan on creating automated question based selling in your email funnel? Have you tried this approach in cold email? Tell me all about it in the comments.