The secret of questioning the question
The instant response to questions rarely addresses the real question on your client’s mind.
Our human nature propels us to immediately answer questions our clients ask for two reasons:
1. By answering the question, we demonstrate that we know our stuff and we hope, in that way, to gain respect, trust and ego fulfillment.
2. As good-natured people, we financial professionals tend to extend ourselves and answer questions in the hope that it makes others feel satisfied that their question was answered, and that they feel appreciative of our efforts to give them what they want.
Moreover, our natural instinct to answer questions is reinforced by old-school, traditional selling, which teaches us that answering questions helps us get to a yes along the way in the sales process, and if we get enough of these, the customer will say yes again when we go for the close.
Now, as logical and innocent as all this might sound, the truth is that answering questions asked by clients right off the bat is probably one of the most significant errors you can make.
Perhaps you have learned this the hard way, just like I did, but the truth that I have discovered is that the question a client asks is not really the question that they want answered. In other words, the first question they ask is just a superficial veil over the real one. Indeed, by answering the superficial question, the underlying real question may go ignored, festering along the way and raising itself as a stall at the end of the sales process. Or, answering the superficial question may actually raise other questions which the client may not have even had in his mind.
Let me give you some quick examples:
The superficial question: Are there any
The real question: Am I going to earn less interest?
The superficial question: How long is the contract?
The real question: Can I buy the house in Florida I’m thinking about?
The superficial question: Is the income guaranteed?
The real question: Will I be able to sleep at night?
The superficial question: Are the withdrawals taxable?
The real question: Is there a better way to get more income?
Let’s start with a rule: Always answer a question with a question.
This is the only way to get below the surface and to the real question at hand. The problem is, how do you do that without making your client feel like you are stalling or ignoring the question that they ask? John: “Steve, how long is this contract?”
Me: “That’s a really good question. Before I answer that, would you be nice enough to explain to me just why you asked that question?”
John: “Well, I don’t want to tie up my money.”
Me: “For a reason?”
John: “Yeah, I want to buy a summer home in three years.”
Now I can deal with the summer home, the real issue at hand, rather than the length of the contract.
Here’s another example:
Mark: “Steve, are these withdrawals taxable?”
Me: “Mark, that’s an interesting question. Are you asking me that for a specific reason?”
Mark: “Well sure, I don’t like paying taxes!”
Me: “I see. I don’t know of anyone who really likes paying taxes. Before I explain how the taxes work, when you pay taxes how does that affect you personally?”
Mark: “First of all, it upsets me because the government doesn’t know how to spend my money. Second of all, it means that I have less to spend on myself.”
Now I can deal with the real issue, making sure Mark has the income he wants and that the taxes become a very secondary matter.
Every time you hear a question, take a quick step backwards and remember the rule: Always answer a question with a question. When you respond with a question, make sure that you soften the question with a statement such as: "That’s really a good question." "I’m really glad you asked that." "That’s really interesting."
And then add on your question of their question. Responding without a softening statement will make your clients feel like they are being grilled or disrespected. Always soften your questions.
The instant response to questions rarely addresses the real question on your client’s mind. Clients will not mind if you delay the answering of their questions by responding with a question of your own if you soften your question with a softening statement. As clients begin to explain the reason for their question, the true question will soon pop up and this often has an emotional drive to it that the superficial question did not have. It is that emotional drive, the drive you discover in the real question, that will lead you to more sales.