Chris is a SCORE colleague and a marketing and sales maven. We are super fans of each other’s work. The following post was published by Chris on his blog in September of 2017 and is chock full of valuable advice.
“Good questions outrank easy answers” – Paul Samuelson
Asking the right questions is crucial to your ability to optimize or turnaround your B2B marketing and sales operations. But even if things are going well, it is a good idea to periodically test your assumptions. Competitors are not standing idle and technologies, channels and customer needs are constantly shifting. Here are eight important questions to get you started:
- Do you understand your own value proposition? This question concerns the big “Why”. Why you are doing what you do, why anybody cares, and why they should buy from you. Your value proposition is the essence of why you are in business.
- What is the highest purpose your business serves? You can discover this by asking a series of “Why” questions until you get to the core. By the way, making money is not an acceptable answer because your prospects care about what is in it for them, not for you.Related Post: The curse of knowledge
- Do you really understand your customers and prospects? By understand, I mean that you need to know the challenges they face, both personally and professionally, as well as what motivates and inspires them. Deep knowledge about your prospects will help you organize messaging and offers that more often result in a successful engagement.
- When people visit your website, do they understand what you do? This is not such an obvious answer. Generally, you have just a few seconds to get your point across to prospects or they are off to the next website on their list. Your hero image, slider, brand promise, etc. must state two things very quickly and clearly: exactly what you do and exactly how you benefit customers.
- What is the focus of your content? Good marketing content is highly focused on the reader, not the writer. A good ratio is 75% about the prospect and 25% about you. This is where knowledge of your target audience can help. Without this knowledge, the tendency is to make it about me, me, me, not about you, you, you.
- Do you have an achievable plan to find, educate, engage and convert prospects? All the great content and a first-class website are insufficient unless you have the right lead-to-revenue (L2R) processes in place to hit your revenue targets. For more about this, read: The Importance of Processes in Effective Lead-to-Revenue.
- Is your sales model built around the needs of the seller or the buyer? For years, we have been talking about the sales and marketing funnel. But the funnel that really counts is the buyer’s funnel. Instead of forcing customers/clients to do it your way, figure out how they prefer buying and align your processes accordingly. Change your mindset from “we need to do a better job selling” to: “we need to do a better job at helping people buy.”
- What are you measuring, and why? The ability to keep good metrics and improve based on the results separates the good from the average B2B marketers. As I pointed out in my recent article, 10 Critical B2B Sales and Marketing Metrics, there are tons of potential items to measure, but a handful will give you the bulk of the benefits.
The above are good, important and relevant questions – and the answers will contribute to your B2B marketing and lead-to-revenue success. However, all questions don’t hold equal value and there is a class of questions that are so bad they are actually counterproductive.
“Agree with me” questions: This category of question is phrased more like a statement, and is designed to elicit only one type of response – for example, when your boss, the CMO asks: Our new website looks great, doesn’t it?
Questions that are not actionable: All of the above questions are useful because you can take action depending on the answer.
Harmful sales questions: Sales reps can hurt themselves by asking the wrong question at the wrong time in the sales process. For example:
- What is your budget (before the need is established)?
- Is this a good time to talk (it’s easy for the prospect to say no)?
- Are you the decision maker (far better to ask, who will be involved in the process)?
Overly broad or vague questions: These are meaningless questions where the person you are asking figures that you are being polite and don’t really care. An example of this is to ask something like: How was our service (good)? Or: Do you have any questions (no)? Or: How are you doing (fine)?
Burdensome questions: This category of questions includes anything that requires more effort to answer than the payoff from knowing the answer.
To boost the success of your B2B marketing and lead-to-revenue programs, ask the right questions, ditch the worthless questions, and remember the advice of Lou Holtz:
“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.”
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