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May 1, 2018

Confirm for Deeper Discovery

Let’s go old school with a quote from the Greek philosopher, Socrates: “Life is full of questions. Idiots are full of answers.” More than 2000 years later, his standard of reasoning holds true especially when it comes to meeting with a prospective buyer. We want to avoid coming across like an idiot by having all the answers. Instead, it’s the buyer’s perspective that we need to discover.

An integral part of the ValueSelling Framework® is holding meaningful conversations through the O-P-C line of questioning—open, probing and confirming questions.

confirming questions

Let me take this opportunity to focus on the importance of the confirming question. With confirming questions, you reiterate what you heard. This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what your understanding is. Better yet, it gives the buyer a chance to clarify, add to or change what they said. At times, the buyer may say, “Yes, that’s what I said. But what I really meant was this.”

At first glance, it would seem that confirming questions are easy. After all, how hard is it to repeat what somebody has told you? But there’s an art to asking confirming questions. We want to avoid simply repeating what is said without any thought. Instead, practice asking solid, confirming questions like a pro with these tips:

1. Document what the buyer says. Prepare to listen attentively by capturing the salient points the buyer brings up and jotting down the key points. Taking notes helps you recall the words they use and it is subtle validation that what they said was important enough to write down.

While you’re taking written notes, the buyer is taking mental notes and this supports their perception that this meeting and their business issue is very important to you.

2. Match their key terms. Reflect back the actual words your customer uses and offer them the opportunity to elaborate. Don’t assume that you understand their meaning. Always ask for a clarification or definition to minimize the risk of a mismatch with the buyer.

Sample reflective questions:

                A. “So, what you’re saying is…?”
                B. “Is it correct to say that…?”
                C. “Did I hear that…?”

3. Open by confirming. At ValueSelling, we use confirming questions throughout the entire sales process. It’s a great way to reopen the dialogue over time.

“The last time you and I met, we discussed ABC and you told me DEF. Does that still stand?” This allows you to open, summarize and re-establish rapport. We trust people who “get” us and care enough to understand us. By using confirming questions thoughtfully, your buyers will get the sense you “get” them.

4. Always be closing. Confirming questions can serve as mini-trial closes—test points throughout the buying cycle to see where you’re at.

“If you had that, would that be enough for you to consider doing business with me?” 

5. Be interested in their success. From a buyer’s perspective, this is the number one contributing factor as to whether or not people will engage and take the time to answer clarifying questions. Do they believe we’re interested in their success or interested solely in our own success, which may be at odds with theirs. People tend to be interested in people who are interested in them. 

When you’re curious and really want to know the answers, that’s apparent and your interest will set you up to receive information.

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” – Socrates

Confirmation is critical to demonstrate your listening skills. Asking follow-up questions and testing your understanding are very powerful and simple ways to prove you’re listening. Use breaks in the conversation to confirm what you heard and clarify what you understood.

The Socratic Method of questioning has become a standard for asking thoughtful questions and getting to the truth. By crafting on-point confirming questions, it’s easy for you to build trust, clarify meaning and validate your buyer’s concerns to discover a true account of the nature of a problem.

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