How To Use The Funnel Questioning Technique
There are basically two types of questions: open and closed (sometimes called indirect and direct).
Open questions are used to get people to open up and provide information, whilst closed questions are used to solicit commitment and will prompt a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
Once again, our 80/20 rule comes into play. You should analyze your questioning so as to make sure that you ask 80% open and 20% closed questions.
Unfortunately, closed questions are easier to ask and, if we have a compliant client, you can lapse into the bad habit of reversing the 80/20 rule and asking mainly closed questions. When you ask closed questions, even with the compliant client, you are doing yourself a great disservice. It will be as much by luck as by judgment that you are getting any information at all and what you do find out will be limited.
Once the art of asking open questions is mastered, we take the types of questions and expand and define them a little further, so that we can uncover and then develop needs:
- Open Neutral Questions – These get uninfluenced and non-specific answers
- Open Leading Questions – For long, influenced, specific answers
- Closed Questions – To solicit a short, influenced answer (usually just ‘yes’ or ‘no’)
The Funnel Technique
This is a questioning technique – or rather a structure – to use the technique within, which keeps you on track as you guide your prospect towards your service/product offering, once you have uncovered the needs.
The technique relies on you using the prospect’s own words back to them and you must make notes. You will need to remember what the prospect says, both now and possibly well into the future – so do not rely on your memory…
Steps of the Funnel Technique
There are four steps to the technique, but that does not necessarily mean that it will always be only four questions:
- Motivate – Why you are asking the questions
- Open neutral questions – To get non-specific, unbiased information
- Open leading questions – To get specific, biased information
- Summary and gain commitment with closed questions
The first step is to motivate the prospect. You are going to hit the prospect with a barrage of questions, so you want to prepare them for it. The best way to do this is with motivation, not justification. You might consider using something they said to provide some positive stroking. For example, you might make reference to the size of their company or department. They will be on the edge of their chair waiting to tell you about it in more depth! Be careful not to sound too patronizing, but top salespeople are genuinely interested to learn as much as they can about their client’s/prospect’s business and are very good at creating rapport.
Now you have them relaxed, you can begin to probe for information, pegs to hang the sale on and hot buttons. You want to find out as much as possible without leading or influencing the prospect. You want to encourage them to talk. You could ask them, for instance, how their company is structured or what the partnership does. Never use closed questions, or be too specific, at his stage.
At the second stage, you will, more likely than not, get several pieces of valuable information. You must make notes, because you may want to go through the funnel with each piece and maybe several times.
Once you have started to gather information and uncovered the hot buttons, you use open leading questions to pinpoint specific areas that you want to explore, exploit or lead the prospect into. Again, during Step 3, do not use closed questions.
Now you summarize, using their words and information, so as to get their commitment of your understanding of the situation or their needs. You then wait for the commitment and go back to Step One.
Questioning using the funnel technique is one of the most powerful selling tools available to you. The key to its success is to practice using it.
First of all, work on your open questions and then start to consciously differentiate between ‘open neutral’ and ‘open leading’.
When you become skilful with this technique, selling becomes a lot easier – making small orders large orders is easier too! You can make the prospect ask for the products or services you have to offer!
Just remember to ask…How, What, Why, Where, When, Who, Which!