Monday, July 02, 2007

Asking Questions in Colour

“You can tell a man is clever by his answers. You can tell a man is wise by his questions."

Asking questions is one of the best ways I know to get information. But not all questions are created equal. Insightful and profound questions invite equally insightful and profound answers. In sales great questions bring out lots of valuable information about the customer’s needs, desires and concerns. So, how do you ask great questions that uncover the real facts, opinions and feelings?
1) Get in the flow of Open -> Closed Questions: The first thing to keep in mind when asking questions is to start with open questions and then progressively move to more closed questions as you seek more specific information. Only when you have reached a clear and quantified response to a specific question should you move on to the next question area.
2) Ask White, Green, Black and Red Questions: This is a simple and easy way to remember a powerful sequence of questions that go directly to the real issue(s) that will directly uncover a maximum of information, rich in facts, opinions and feelings. How does it work?
You need to remember two things: 1) what each colour represents and 2) to always use the questions in same colour sequence - white, green, black and red.
White Questions: Current situation. Facts, data and information. Think of white snow: pure, cold hard facts. Example: “How would you characterize your Managed Services business in the Small and Medium Business market segment in Western Europe today?”
Green Questions: Desired situation. Future state. Think of grass, trees, growth, what a situation can become. Example: “Looking to the future, where would you like your business to be 12 months from now?”
Black Questions: Obstacles, contraints or limitations. Important and powerful, yet often left unasked. Think of night time or being in the dark, you can’t see in the dark. Turn on the light to see what stands between you (your current position) and where you want to go (your desired future situation). Example: “What do you see as being the major challenges or constraints you will face in getting there?”
Red Questions: Feelings. Fire, red is an explosive color, highly emotionally charged. Example: “If any one of these constraints significantly delayed your progress against plan, what would be the impact on you and your team?”

Once you have got answers to these four questions you can determine not only what to sell but more importantly how to sell. Experiment by asking questions in colour at your next customer meeting and you will discover that you gain more and richer information that will help you to make more sales. You will also discover that you will be seen as a valued resource by your customers.

5 comments:

Aldo said...

Very nice idea David
i will immediately adopt this perspective in my strategic consulting activities.
Aldo Pomponi
aldo.pomponi@gmail.com

Marc Weening said...

Interesting David! @Point 1: in the SPIN selling method we use at Info Support the focus is not that much on open/closed questions...but more on the questions in each phase. According to the research on this method there is a relation between the amount of "N" questions and success. @Point 2: we're going to use this in the communication with our resellers!

edenchanges said...

I see you are not suggesting people ask questions about the past - i.e. the situation that led to where the client is today - or would you recommend that in the white question part?

Otherwise I liked this.

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