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Fri, 08 Jan 2010 22:59:51 GMT | By Elizabeth Walker

Three magic questions that drive sales

Ask these key three questions as you talk to clients about potential work -- that way you won't short change yourself or your clients.

Some of our best business conversations happen in the most unlikely places, including our daily walk to the local coffee shop we fuel up in, and the dog park where Liz takes her border collie, Mike.

One of our dog park buddies is a woman we'll call Mary. She's a self- employed consultant who knows we're always open to providing what insight we can while we throw tennis balls for Mike and his doggy pals.

We like what Mary does, so we took her along to meet a client of ours who needed the kind of services she provides. Now, when a colleague accompanies you to meet a client with a stated need, you can be pretty sure there is real business to be had and that you have a better-than- even chance of getting it.

Here's how the meeting went. Client to Mary: "Here's what I need (gives detail). What would you charge me for that?"

Mary to Client: "That would be X dollars. But I could give you a discount if that's too much."

So Mary got the job, but gave away about 20 per cent of what the client was willing to pay her because she didn't know the Three Magic Questions she should have asked.

Magic Question No. 1:
What is the biggest frustration, or the most powerful opportunity you have been facing in the last 12 months?

Magic Question No. 2:
If you had solved that problem, or been successful with that opportunity, what would that have meant to your company (In dollars?
In market share? In profit? In store traffic? In lead generation?)

Magic Question No. 3:
On a scale of one to 10, how committed are you to solving that problem, or succeeding with that opportunity, in the next 12 months?

Can you see why these questions are pure magic? Because the client has the opportunity to talk about his favourite subject (himself) and is actually telling you exactly what he wants to buy and how much it is worth to him.

If the prospect had said his commitment level was eight out of 10 or more, Mary could have said, "I specialize in providing solutions that (solve the biggest frustration the prospect has) so that my clients can achieve their goal of (what the client said he wanted to achieve)." She could have quoted a fee that was reasonable in relation to the answers to Magic Question No. 2.

If the prospect had said his commitment level was under eight out of 10, Mary would have suspected that the client was not willing to pay her usual fee. She might also suspect that the project might be terminated early, or even that she would have trouble getting paid on time.

In this case, she could have said, "You've said your problem is (restate the problem or opportunity) and that resolving it would result in (restate the results he mentioned). But it doesn't sound like it's your No. 1 priority in the next year. I specialize in this type of work, and I feel that you should invest X (a reasonable fee).
How does that sound?"

Based on the response she got, she would then be able to make a decision to accept the job, decline it, or negotiate a short-term contract she and the client would be happy with.

Increasing the value of your sales? All it takes is a little magic!

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