It’s crucial to learn what your prospect needs from you before he or she is willing to buy. One of the best ways to collect this information is asking what I call the “question trilogy”:
Question 1: “How many energy projects have been proposed here in the last <<<fill in the blank>>> years?” Just as they say that there could be no music without silence between the notes, when you ask an important question that requires heavy thought, just zip it. Put your pencil to your notepad so that they know this no time to make stuff up because you’re going to write down whatever they tell you. Assuming they have had proposals in the past, move on to question two.
Question 2: “How many of those projects have been approved?” Again, give them time to think. After they give you a figure, move on to question three.
Question 3: “What was it about those projects that made them easy to approve?” This is the golden question that will provide your insight into their values and decision-making process. And I intentionally phrased it as “easy to approve” because in many situations, they weren’t easy to approve, and your prospect’s reaction will reveal just how hard they had to work – and what strings they needed to pull – to make it happen.
The earlier you ask these questions in the sales process, the better. You might learn that you have no chance closing a sale because the prospect is already loyal to another vendor. In this case, you should just pack up and move on to a different prospect. (You might leave the door open by suggesting that you’d like them to consider you to be a valued “#2” vendor in case their present vendor ever finds itself unable to provide the level of service that your prospect has come to expect from them.) Or you might learn that they only work with vendors who can provide a certain service that they value… if you are able to provide them with this service, it should be front and center in your presentation going forward. Listen to what they have to say, make note of it, and tailor your proposal to fit their needs.