Outreach Questions … open or closed-ended?


QuestionsThe first step in your target qualification process is to think about the qualification questions you need to ask. Often when we consider reaching to our outreach target (OT), we wonder if we will scare outreach targets away asking too much too fast? The answer to these questions is No.

If your outreach targets are truly that interested in the area you are looking to help them improve upon, they will be willing to share some information with you, at least at a high level. If not, they weren’t the best outreach target for you to begin with.

So here’s what I suggest for an exercise as you think about what outreach targeting qualification questions you want to ask. I believe there are two buckets of qualification questions. There are the general, cookie-cutter type of questions, and then the specific questions that you need to know in order to determine the specifics of outreach targets’ environment to see how your product or service could fit.

Question Set 1: Open-ended Questions

Here are some examples of the general open-ended qualification questions you can use across the board, no matter what product, solution, or consulting you are offering:

1. What challenges are you experiencing with your current process/technology? (alter this based on your industry, product or brand)
2. What impact do these challenges have on your business or organization, now?
3. Ideally, what is your time-frame for solving these challenges (try various versions of this question)?
4. Have you allocated a budget for solving the above challenges (no budget is opportunity to present some suggestions)?

You’ll notice these are all open-ended questions. This is the most important piece of advice I can give. If you use close-ended questions for these general qualification questions, the outreach target has more of an out to give you a “No” and hang up.

If the above four questions are thoughtfully answered, you have the opportunity to drill a bit deeper about their specific problem or environment. The answers to the next set of questions is crucial to develop a coherent follow-up strategy.

Question Set 2: Closed-ended Questions

These questions will vary between companies, their target customers, industry conventions.

1. How many users (or other nomenclature for customers or clients) do you have?
2. How many staff is dedicated to managing or servicing this group (industry, product, geographical area, etc.)?
3. What technology issues are a problem for you?
4. What Customer Relations Management (CRM) system do you have in place?

If these questions are answered, now is the time to ask for a meeting with the principals that will make the decisions regarding acceptable solution proposals.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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