Recently one of the authors of this blog was out for dinner at a chain Italian restaurant with his wife. When we arrived, we asked for a booth with a view of the outdoors and were seated promptly by a friendly and outgoing hostess. Within 2-3 minutes our food server greeted us with a large smile and welcomed us to the restaurant. She proudly stated her name, asked if we had dined in the restaurant before and told us she would be our server. She explained the specials and asked if we would like to try one of their signature wines that was being sold by the glass. We each chose the Cabernet and she left to retrieve it. When she returned she poured us each a glass while explaining a bit about the vintage. We not only enjoyed the wine, but we learned a bit about it. So far, our experience was perfect.

The rest of our meal was equally satisfying. The server was friendly, attentive and helpful while not being over-bearing. After our meal while we were enjoying a cup of coffee the restaurant manager came by and asked us the following? “How was your meal?” We replied “excellent” and he responded” great”. I am glad to hear it. He then walked away and went to the table across from us where he repeated the same question. While he asked a good question, it wasn’t a great question.

Why you might ask? His question got an answer that appeared to satisfy him and his desires. We acknowledge he did achieve that goal if in fact that was his intent. What he failed to learn was how we felt about our overall dining experience, how the experience compared to our expectation, whether anything about our mean was exceptional and did we plan to return.

A “good” question got him basic information. “How was your meal?

Our reply was “it was great!”

A “better” question might have been, “How did you enjoy your dining experience?” It might have gotten the following response, “The food was excellent, and we thought the service by Ann was exceptional. We also really enjoyed the wine.” This question would have elicited more information that would have been useful to him.

A “best” question would have been: “What did you enjoy most about your dining experience?” This would have elicited the following response from us. “The food was excellent, and we thought the service by Ann was exceptional. We really enjoyed the wine, the atmosphere and the staff. We will recommend this restaurant to our friends and we plan to be back once a month. By the way how large a party can you handle, we are part of a large group that is looking for a restaurant that can accommodate 20-30 easily.

Notice that as our questions get progressively better the quality and the quantity of information also improved.

Parting Thoughts

The lesson for all sellers is to stop and think and ask yourself what is the right question I need to ask to elicit the most meaningful information that I desire. This takes planning and thought but it provides huge benefits.

Are you asking “good”, “better” or “best” questions? Improve your questioning process and watch the length of your sales cycles decrease and your win rates increase.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and input. Let’s start a discussion and elevate the sales profession with a thoughtful and informative discourse.

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