33 Questions To Quickly Identify Your Customer’s Needs
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make the customer experience a little bit better.” — Jeff Bezos, Founder Amazon
“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.” — James Cash Penney, Founder J.C. Penney Stores
Business negotiations have become complex: prospects confuse “wants” with “needs” and often lack time. In addition, many of your prospects may be reluctant to provide data, yet have infinite access to information about you..
Mastering the sales process starts with asking customers the right questions.
Whether you are a beginning salesperson looking for a qualification system to follow in your negotiation process or a sales team manager looking to provide new resources to your team, this list of questions to ask prospects will help identify their needs.
With this list of questions, you will be able to personalize your sales presentations and negotiations according to the needs of each prospect or client.
The 4 types of questions to ask in sales negotiations
During a sales negotiation, there are several types of questions to ask a prospect or an existing customer. Alternating these types of questions will have a direct impact on the way the prospect answers them and will allow the sales representative to better understand the needs of the potential client and to guide the conversation.
As the name implies, open-ended questions allow the prospect to respond freely to the question and do not steer the answer in any particular direction. These questions allow you to open up the conversation and explore a particular area.
Examples of open-ended questions
- What are your short-term goals? In the long term?
- What are your buying criteria and success criteria?
- What do you like best about your current provider?
- What would you like to change about your current system?
- What are your needs?
Closed-ended questions are used to confirm a hypothesis or to obtain validation from the prospect. Closed-ended questions can only be answered with a yes or no.
This type of question, when used correctly, can be very beneficial in a sales negotiation.
Examples of closed questions
- Are you ready to renew the contract today?
- Do you feel you received very good customer service?
- Would you recommend our products/services to a friend or colleague?
- Have you already tested our product?
- Are you in contact with our competitor?
Alternative questions prompt the prospect to make a choice between one or more options. These questions are quick and simple and in a sales negotiation, they help refocus the prospect’s attention on the choices presented.
Examples of alternative questions
- Are you interested in our tool x or y?
- What date would you prefer for an appointment, Tuesday or Thursday?
- What is your most important objective, x or y?
- Would you prefer to learn more about our software x or y?
- Did you reject this offer for x or y reason?
Factual questions are direct questions that quantify what the prospect is saying. This type of question avoids misunderstandings.
Examples of factual questions
- When can we start?
- When can I call you back?
- Who do you want to work with?
- How often would you like customer support?
- How many accounts would you like to purchase?
Questions to identify your prospects’ needs
Whether you’re a beginner looking for a ready-made list of sales questions or want to test new questions with your team, this list should help you better identify your prospects’ needs. This will allow you to tailor your presentations to their specific situation.
1 — What are your short-term goals? What are your long-term goals?
Asking this question will help you understand what your prospect’s real expectations are and how your product or service can help your prospect meet them.
2 — Why is this purchase important to you? For your company?
By answering this question, your prospect will explain how they think your product or service could help them solve a problem they are facing. This will allow you to target the model or package that might best suit their needs.
3 — According to you, what is your main asset? Your main weakness?
This question will allow you to understand the successes of your prospect but also the difficulties he faces. These elements are essential to understand their needs.
4 — How do you evaluate the potential of new products or services?
By answering this simple question, your prospect will let you know if he is open to using new products or services and you will have a clear idea of his interest.
5 — Who is your current supplier or provider? Why did you choose them? What can I do to make you choose us?
Use the answers to this question to highlight how your company is better suited than the competitor’s and how your services can better meet your prospect’s needs.
Why does your prospect want to change providers? They may be choosing a lower price or a product with more features. Use these elements in your sales process.
6 — What are your buying criteria and success criteria?
This question will help you understand what your product or service needs to be to appeal to your prospect.
There’s no point in continuing the buying process if you can’t allow your prospect to achieve his or her success criteria.
7 — What do you consider most and least important in terms of price, quality and service?
Question your prospect to find out which aspects of the product or service are most important to him. You will then be able to adapt your offer according to their answers.
8 — What level of service are you willing to finance?
Tailor your offer according to your clients’ financial dispositions and use their response to build an offer that fits their needs.
9 — What do you like best about your current supplier or provider? What do you dislike?
Your product or service must satisfy your prospect on the same level as those of your competitor. On the other hand, highlight your difference and explain how your skills are superior to those of your competitor.
10 — What do you expect from the companies you work with?
Make sure you offer a service that meets the expectations of your potential client. This question will help you identify their needs.
11 — What would make you change your supplier or service provider?
Depending on the answer to this question, adapt your pitch and present the advantages of your product or service that could lead your prospect to change supplier or service provider.
12 — What do you prefer about your current system? What would you like to change?
Do not propose to your prospect a system similar to his current system if he wants to change it but focus on improvements or other solutions that could be adapted to your prospect’s system.
13 — What do you think your needs are? How important are they?
A list of your customers’ needs will allow you to prioritize the services to be provided according to the importance they attach to them.
14 — If you were me, what would you do?
This question is somewhat critical because you are asking your prospect directly how you can help them.
At worst, your prospect will reiterate the problems they are facing. At best, your prospect will already be giving you elements of how they would like you to act.
15 — What professional associations are you a member of?
Know your client’s network! Some of your clients may have a relationship with your prospect. If so, don’t hesitate to mention it!
16 — What do we need to do to work together?
This question will tell you what your prospect is looking for and if they are already inclined to work with your agency or company.
If your prospect still seems reluctant, work on the elements of improvement they suggest and make a new proposal.
17 — When can we start?
Be sure to ask your prospect this question, it will allow you to set a date for the start of the collaboration.
18 — Can you tell me why you rejected our offer?
Unfortunately, your prospect may not want to work with you at this time. It’s not a big deal, but don’t hesitate to ask the reason for this refusal: it is important that you know the external elements that could have guided your prospect’s decision towards such a refusal in order to improve your offer.
19 — What is the best way to work with you again?
Ask your prospect what improvements you need to make to your product or service to get the contract next time!
20 — During our last business transaction, what did we do that impressed you the most?
This question not only reveals your strengths but also subtly reminds your prospect of them.
Use the answers to highlight these facts in your customer testimonials.
21 — What do you want from your relationship with a supplier or service provider?
Understand how your prospect wants to interact with their supplier or service provider to directly adopt the mode of cooperation that suits them.
22 — Who was the best sales person who ever contacted you?
It can sometimes be hard for your prospect to find an answer to this particular question, but if he or she gives you some examples of behaviors that he or she appreciated in a sales person, you will know how to improve your business relationship with him or her.
23 — When can I call you back?
Finally, this last question is essential to perpetuate your sales relationship… don’t forget it.
Questions to identify the needs of your existing customers
It is very common for sales people to also have sales negotiations with existing customers in order to offer them a new product or another feature (up-sell, cross-sell, renewal). To conduct this sales negotiation, it is imperative to ask the right questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions about your product, no matter if the answers are right or wrong. If you don’t ask them, you may miss signs of dissatisfaction and risk the customer turning to a competitor.
24 — On a scale of 1 to 10, are you satisfied with our product?
This question will allow you to quickly assess whether or not the customer is satisfied with the company’s products or services. The discussion will be radically different if the customer answers with a three or a nine.
25 — Why do you give this rating?
A common mistake is to stop the discussion at the previous question. Regardless of the score the client gives, it is important to gather more details.
26 — In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of our products and services?
Similar to the previous question, this question will help to understand the customer’s expectations of the company’s products or services.
27 — What do you like about our products and services?
Knowing the answer will help you identify similar products or services to sell to your existing customers.
28 — Would you recommend our products/services to a friend or colleague?
The answer to this question will not only help you understand the satisfaction of an existing customer but also identify if they can be considered an ambassador for your company.
29 — What is the internal adoption and usage of our product?
This question is particularly important because if the product is not really used by the company’s employees, then all the previous answers are questionable.
30 — Do you think you received a very satisfactory customer service?
The customer service of a company is particularly important and if the customer answers in the negative, it is necessary to find elements of improvement.
31 — What do we need to do to work with your company for another year?
This question will identify potential areas of improvement for your company to renew an existing contract.
32 — Are you ready to renew the contract today?
Only ask this question if you received positive responses to the previous seven questions.
33 — Would you be interested in feature x?
This question will allow the sales representative to not only renew the contract but also to make an additional sale.
Setting up a sales discovery plan
The commercial diagnosis or the commercial discovery plan is a collection of information that allows you to take stock of the prospect’s project and to feed a customer file with essential data.
This inventory allows us to truly understand the prospect’s needs and to respond to them through appropriate sales negotiations.
The discovery plan (or sales diagnosis) allows you to understand the prospect’s needs, and will then serve as the basis for a Service-Level Agreement (SLA) in the event of a sale. To do this, you can conduct the sales discovery in three steps:
- Context: why is the prospect contacting your company or open to discussion? Has the company situation changed recently?
- Needs: What are your prospect’s needs? What functionality is needed?
- Motivations: What are the prospect’s goals? What are their challenges?