As you know, selling a consulting service is far different than selling an actual product, like a car or flat screen TV. And it can be a lot more challenging for a variety of reasons – one of which may be that you don’t really like to sell.
You’re a consultant, after all, not a salesperson.
But in order to do what you love most – solve problems for your clients – you need to actually sell them on your services; on what you can do for them.
The best way to make that happen?
By asking smart questions. These are targeted, well-planned questions that enable you to get to the source of the problem, engage buyers, and showcase your expertise.
So what kinds of questions should you ask to open up the sales conversations and sell your services? Here are some examples:
“How do you know that’s the problem?”
Oftentimes, buyers come to you with their problem already defined. But they could be basing their perspective on shaky assumptions. And, as the consultant, it’s your job to ensure the stated problem is actually the “real” problem, which is why you need to ask this question.
Your response to their “problem” will not only give you a chance to demonstrate your skills and expertise, but it will also ensure the recommendations you ultimately do make are based on a factual foundation. And whether they are or not, you will be held accountable by the client at the end of the engagement. So don’t be afraid to question the client’s answers!
“Why did you decide to hire a consultant?”
There are many different reasons why a client would decide to hire a consultant, whether they need a fresh perspective or solutions for a specific problem. Perhaps they don’t have the right skill set in house or not enough manpower to complete the project. Worst-case-scenario, a client has a project that brings a long and troubled history with it.
But if you can uncover the logic behind bringing in a consultant, you’ll not only have a better sense of the internal dynamics of the organization, but also of the client’s real needs.
Asking this question also serves to open up the conversation for you to convince them that you are the best person to fulfill those needs. How can you do that?
Go into detail about a similar problem you solved for another client and how you solved it. Offer other success stories, using financial results whenever possible, that demonstrate your track record. Use this as an opportunity to showcase to a client why they should choose you.
“Who else is part of the decision making process?”
You’ve spent hours meeting and brainstorming with the client, defining the problem, offering recommendations, and hammering out a deal…only to have it killed at the 11th hour by an unknown decision maker. If this has ever happened to you, you know how aggravating it can be.
So before investing too much time with a particular client, be sure to ask this question early on, so you can connect with all the decision makers.
If you truly want to win more business, you need your clients to open up and share important components of their company and their situation. At the same time, you need to educate them about how your services will help solve their problems. So when it comes to asking questions, think carefully about the ones you do ask so you can engage buyers, uncover their true needs, and advocate for yourself in the process.