The Art of the Confirming Question

An integral part of the ValueSelling Framework® is holding meaningful conversations through the O-P-C line of questioning-open, probing and confirming questions. Let me take this opportunity to focus on the importance of the confirming question. At first glance, it would seem that confirming questions are easy. After all, how hard is it to repeat what somebody has told you?

But there’s an art to asking confirming questions without sounding like a parrot; that is, without simply repeating what is said without any thought. To ask solid, confirming questions like a pro, keep these four tips in mind:

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1. Document what the buyer says. Knowing in advance that you’re going to be asking confirming questions, prepare yourself to listen attentively. Capture the salient points the buyer brings up and jot down the key points. Taking notes helps you recall the words they use and it is subtle validation that what they said was important enough to write down.

While you’re taking written notes, the buyer is taking mental notes and this bodes well to their perception that this meeting and their business issue is very important to you.

2. Match the key terms. Reflect back the actual words your customer uses and offer them the opportunity to elaborate. Don’t assume you understand their meaning. Always ask for understanding to minimize the risk of a mismatch with the buyer.

Sample reflective questions:

A. “So, what you’re saying is…?”
B. “Is it correct to say that…?”
C. “Did I hear that…?”

3. Open by confirming. At ValueSelling, we use confirming questions throughout the entire sales process. Sometimes that means a confirming question might be the opening question.

“The last time you and I met, we discussed ABC and you told me DEF. Does that still stand?” This allows you to open, summarize and re-establish rapport. We trust people who “get” us and care enough to understand us. By using confirming questions thoughtfully, your buyers will get the sense you “get” them.

4. Let the conversation evolve. Successful salespeople are often the most curious and they integrate purposeful questions into the conversation. In honing your confirming questioning skills, you are able to influence the conversation and demonstrate credibility and knowledge at all stages in the sales process.

Prepare to engage:

A. “Tell me about your role?”
B. “What are your challenges?”
C. “What does the ideal solution involve?”

With confirming questions, you reiterate what you heard. This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what your understanding is. Better yet, it gives the buyer a chance to clarify, embellish, add to or change what they said.

At times, the buyer may say, “Yes, that’s what I said. But what I really meant was this.” Confirming questions are a powerful way to deepen your understanding so you don’t waste your time addressing something that wasn’t the real issue at hand.

Build trust, clarify meaning and validate your buyer’s concerns by crafting on-point confirming questions.

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