How to ask a question in a new business pitch

Seems obvious, right? Just ask it.

Well…

While that may be fine for your competitors, my friend, you recognize an opportunity to be a bit more crafty. Here are some thinks to think about next time you have an opportunity to ask a few questions.

  • Do some homework. This can’t be overstated enough. Keep in mind you are being judged by the kinds of questions you ask. Points off for knuckleheaded queries! An easy example of a bad question: asking how many employees they have if that info is easily available online. Find good questions here: Have you spent time with the product or visiting the store? Have you checked out their website? Their competitors’? What have you learned when you look at industry job descriptions? How about the trade associations and online pubs that cover this business? Industry blogs? Prospect decision-maker speeches? Etc. Etc. Etc.
  • Reflect the homework in the question. Don’t go overboard, but add a line or two that give the listener some context. Ideally, it reflects something you’ve learned around the category, the consumer or the company.
  • Emphasize open-ended questions. How, What, Whys are great places to start. See the question as an opportunity to not only gather information, but something that could spark discussion.
  • Keep the “always be closing” questions to a minimum. Sure, you’ve got to qualify a given prospect. But it’s very easy to load up on these kinds of requests. Which screams to the client that your relationship with them will be about you. Not them. (Where it needs to be.) Just how many is too many? Depends on the circumstances, natch. More on that at a later time, perhaps.
  • Prioritize the list. Easy, open-ended questions go up front.
  • Learn from the responses. This has been written about before. (Here!). But how they answer the questions is just important as the answer itself. Are they conversational? Defensive? Short? Long? Their style is important to note, as it gives you cues to use to win.

Lots of other things here to consider, of course. I encourage you to shout, post, call, email, carrier pigeon, any questions you might have. Though you will look a bit silly shouting.

Happy pitching. Speaking of which, I gotta hop. Later.

Comments

  1. Great info as always Steve. I’ve been in Biz Dev for a long time and still find myself acting non-strategic in a pitch. Good reminders! -Lane

  2. Steve Congdon says:

    Hey there, Lane. Thanks for the comment. Always good to hear from… a “seasoned” veteran. I’m with ya, Daddyo!