How to Sell Disruptive Solutions with Provocative Questions

By Harry Kendlbacher, CEO & Managing Partner, Global Performance Group
A person in a shirt and tie leaning on a black question mark.

People often connect the term “disruptive solution” with a complex new technology. In reality, disruptive solutions encompass more than simply new products or services; they also include entirely new markets, as disruptive solutions are about solving an unknown need for a set of buyers who are unaware of the difficulties they will face.

Disruptive solutions provide an opportunity. They require more advanced selling skills because they necessitate establishing a buying vision. When salespeople develop a buying vision, they combine the stakeholders’ goals, difficulties, and perceptions of risk into a strategic map. They rely on this map to find, create, and fulfill a vision of the future.

The ability to put this map together gives a distinct competitive edge because it elevates the salesperson to the level of a trusted advisor who can help customers anticipate future risk and take charge of market opportunities. This technique reveals why agility – one of the most distinguishing characteristics of disruptive solutions – is so essential.

At Global Performance Group, we believe the skill of mastering a provocative questioning strategy is critical for salespeople to become trusted customer advisors and open customers’ eyes to a new buying vision.

Develop a Questioning Strategy That Strikes Below the Surface

Salespeople must use a questioning approach to shine a light on unknown needs in order to leverage their competitors’ failures. At Global Performance Group we call this the “Striker Question” technique. We call it that because, if executed correctly, the salesperson can strike below the surface of the buyers’ wants to get to the core of what the buyer actually needs.

This allows the salesperson to take advantage of chances that others have overlooked. The competitor’s choice – whether deliberate or not – to leave a potential need unexplored is typically the consequence of falling into the common pitfall of asking the same questions of every potential buyer.

The process of properly executing this questioning strategy can be time-consuming and exhausting. If done effectively, the salesperson will have conducted painstaking research to ask questions that not only provide the questioner with new information, but also provide the customer with new insights, information, and awareness as they answer each question.

As a result, some sales organizations fail to uncover a client’s needs – resulting in stalled sales processes in which they end up saying the same thing their competitor said. That leads to a lost opportunity.

Even those who are well aware of the significance of a well-thought-out questioning strategy struggle with it. Why? Because today’s needs exploration is more time-consuming. There are now more stakeholders to consider. Needs are more nuanced and intricate.

In other words, acknowledging effective questioning as a crucial and difficult step isn’t enough; salespeople must also be sharp in their approach since disruptive innovation can only succeed by taking the time to pinpoint and reveal their customer’s central needs (not their wants).

Steps to Craft More Effective Striker Questions

  • Address all questions that can be answered with research while saving detailed questions for the client conversation
  • Encourage customers to expand on related needs that might broaden the scope of the buying criteria; this can often lead to a bigger sale
  • Ask questions that surface more than just the best-case scenario; ask questions that surface the worst case so it can be addressed up front
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge your customer with a reality check; this can open their eyes to possibilities they hadn’t considered

Types of Striker Questions

The following are different types of Striker Questions that disruptive solution sellers can use to probe deeper to uncover needs and engage the customer in a provocative dialogue.

  • Validate: Quantify or confirm what the customer is trying to achieve
  • Challenge: Force a “reality check” using market data, benchmarks, leading-edge research, or past performance
  • Shock: Explore the worst-case scenario of the status quo – or, if the wrong decision is made, the worst possible potential outcome
  • Rank: Require customers to prioritize their needs – developing a wish list that ensures decisions won’t be made for the wrong reasons
  • Compare: Help the customer look at different results and create a hierarchy of best ROI/best value decisions
  • Futurize: Identify future impact by asking questions that focus on what ideal results look like – giving you and your customers the information needed to make the right decisions today

Effective questioning is not an interrogation made up of a rapid series of questions asked for the sake of asking. With disruptive solutions in particular, Striker Questions help salespeople develop a buying vision – combining the stakeholders’ goals, difficulties, and perceptions of risk into a strategic map – resulting in the optimal decision making criteria.  

For more information on Striker Questions, Global Performance Group, or how we help sellers of disruptive solutions master their craft, contact us here.