Updated: Jan 30
The commitment and consistency concept:
Ask an easy, no-brainer question first that the person knows the answer to without having to think, in order to get them to go on record with their answer.
And then ask progressively more difficult and more difficult questions until you get the ultimate concession you’re seeking.
When people go on record, rarely will they back down. They want to be consistent with each previous answer so they won’t lose face. A small commitment gets them started. Consistency is the motivator that gets them to make larger concessions.
Your homework: develop seven qualifying questions you’d like to ask every prospect on the first contact and then number them in sequence, the easiest to the most difficult. The money question will be one of the last questions.
Why seven questions? Based upon research by Bell Laboratories years ago, they found that people can remember, do, and respond to things in a sequence of seven. That’s why they made phone numbers (before area codes) seven digits long.
Here are three examples of bad first questions to ask.
“How about an appointment?” That’s a good question to ask, but not a good first question. People don’t like to be put on the spot that quickly and will become defensive.
“How much money do you want to spend?” Again, a good question, but not a good first question.
“Who’s really the decision-maker in your family?” Wives love that one. Ask that and kiss your commission check bye-bye.
Qualifying questions reveal clues
Here are seven qualifying questions I’d ask if I sold commercial banking services.
“Do you have a commercial account with any other banks?” That’s an easy, no-brainer question. They know the answer. Even you know the answer before you ask it. Every business has a commercial account with someone. But here’s the thing: Even if you know the answer, don’t state it like a fact. Ask it as a question to get them to respond and go on record to start the commitment and consistency technique.
“How long have you been with them?” They’ll have to think on this a little. When you get your answer it’s a good indicator of their loyalty to your competitor. And sometimes they may even make a statement like, “You know, we’ve been thinking of looking around, but we’ve been putting it off.”
“What kinds of accounts do you have: deposit, loans, real estate?” This question gets them to think a little more about their needs. It may reveal that they may have a line of credit with one bank, a real estate loan with another. This also shows they’re willing to do business with multiple banks.
“Do you have any needs for business insurance, 504 loans, or CD’s?” Notice the questions are getting a little more difficult.
“What’s the most important thing you look for from your bank?” If they answer this, it shows an interest in you. Make a note of what they say because this could be the closer down the road.
“Is your company growing to a stage where we could compete for any of your business?” I discovered the word compete is important in banking. A top-level banking executive who attended our seminar in Baltimore told me during the break that his bankers/salespeople get a ton of appointments by using that one word. “Why?” I asked. “Because many people still don’t realize that banks can compete and negotiate with rates. They think rates are inflexible and locked in.”
“If I promised to not take more than 15 minutes of your time, either on the phone or in person, could I make an appointment and ask you a few more questions about your business and goals? I don’t want to do a presentation since we don’t know enough about each other yet.” This question accomplishes two things. First, I let the prospect know that I won’t take more than 15 minutes. We both know that we can qualify or disqualify each other this quickly. Second, I’m not going to do a show-n-tell. I want to learn more about his business and goals so I’ll know if we’re a fit. I may not even want to do business with them even if they want to do business with me. At this point it’s still a two-way street.
I can usually disqualify someone within two or three questions. If you disqualify them, or they disqualify you this quickly, forget the other questions and move on. However, if you make it through all seven qualifying questions, you may have a good suspect; but not a prospect yet. The appointment will determine if they’re a prospect later.
Knowing how to ask the right questions at the right time is one of the most powerful techniques in selling. The better you qualify someone, the more deals you’ll close. Every question must serve one, if not two, purposes. In today’s business world, time is the most precious commodity people can give you. Don’t abuse it. Don’t wing it. This may be your only shot.
For the cornerstone blog on the commitment and consistency technique see my blog “You Can Play with Your Roadkill, but Don’t Eat It.”
To see how commitment and consistency is used in your personal life see my blog “I Know What You’re Doing to Me, So Why Can’t I Stop It?”
To see how commitment and consistency is used in business see my blog “You Don’t Clean a Loaded Gun While Looking Down the Barrel.”
To see how you use commitment and consistency on yourself (“self-persuasion”) see my blog “Please Stop Me from Twisting My Arm Behind My Back.”