First Business

September 16, 2011

Sales: Frame your questions with context

Shortly after John Paul II became pope, he was interviewed by an Italian journalist, Vittorio Messori. That interview became the best-selling book, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope.” I read the book. It was memorable for many reasons. One in particular was the way in which the journalist asked his questions, or more accurately, “framed” them. His first question of the newly elected pontiff covered a page and a half...just the question! Salespeople could borrow a page from Messori’s technique. In the world of conducting sales interactions, questions should be framed, not simply asked. Why?

  • The information we’re looking for is usually very different from the question we need to ask to get that information.
  • A point we want to communicate is often communicated more effectively if the point is not communicated verbatim.
  • We can sometimes leverage Seek Mode to tell the customer things about our company’s expertise, experience, strengths, qualifications, etc. by communicating those things in the form of a question to the customer instead of a statement about us.
  • We can sometimes call attention to our competitor’s weakness, deficiencies, lack of qualifications/expertise without ever mentioning them – directly or indirectly. In other words, the customer merely has to connect a few simple dots to draw the correct conclusion.
Framing is, simply, the art of adding context – and interest – to questions. Here’s a simple illustration.

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