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Do you remember the last time you went to a dealership to buy a car? Over the years, my experience never varies. I pull up at the dealership and a sales person literally runs over to my car and tackles me before I even get out. The sales person’s first question? You guessed it: "What would it take to have you drive home in this new car today?"

In sales, we call that type of question a "closing question." Any good sales person will tell you that you shouldn’t ask a closing question until you are sure that the answer will be "Yes!" And, to get to a "yes" answer, you need to first determine what that prospect’s needs and wants are.

I have heard the statistic that less than 20% of sales people actually take the time to ask questions of their prospects before asking for the sale…before asking that closing question. This being the case, I’d like to share with you a simple formula for asking great questions. Using it will place you in the 20% of sales people who actually do take the time to understand their prospect’s needs and wants as a part of the sales process.

That formula is a four-letter word: GRCO.

(OK, so it’s not really a word, but an acronym and mnemonic aide to help you remember this formula for asking questions.)

Let’s set the context for a typical sales call or meeting. You first build some rapport and trust with your prospect. This might include a warm welcome, some opening questions about them or their business, good eye contact, and other such techniques to establish a productive relationship at the beginning of a sales engagement. Once you have established some trust, your next step is to ask the GRCO questions. Let’s review them one at a time:

G stands for "Goal" Questions. When talking with your prospect, start by asking some questions about what matters most to them. What are they trying to accomplish? What are the important measures for the business this year? What will make them consider the year a success? What do they personally want to accomplish and by when? Goal questions allow your prospect to talk about their envisioned future, about what they really need and want, while enabling you to focus on what is most important to them.

R stands for "Rewards" Questions. Now that you know the goals, ask your prospect questions that tell you what is in it for them when they achieve those goals. Good questions to ask include, "What is the benefit of achieving that goal?" or "What will be different when you achieve X?" Rewards questions give you a sense of the value of the goals, which can tell you a lot about how much the client may need your help to meet that goal.

C stands for "Consequences" Questions. These are the reverse of rewards questions: what will happen if X is not reached? If the prospect or business can’t achieve their goal, how will the impact be? What is the downside of not achieving the goal? It is said that most sales happen in order to avoid a problem rather than to achieve a particular target. Understanding the negative consequences for your prospect is a prerequisite to your developing a solution to their needs.

Last, O stands for "Obstacles" Questions. What would keep the prospect/business from achieving the goal? What is standing in the way of success? What challenges are they running into? These questions are very powerful tools in your sales arsenal, since they often point to problems that the client cannot overcome themselves. That’s why they need you! If you can identify internal challenges and obstacles, and a solution to help them get past those issues, then your ability to sell just got easier.

Armed with the answers to these important GRCO questions, you are now ready to show how your product or service is perfectly positioned to help the prospect achieve the goals, overcome the obstacles, achieve the rewards, and avoid the consequences related to that goal. In preparation for your next sales call, write the acronym GRCO at the top of your note pad. If needed, draft some GRCO questions in advance so that you can use them with your prospect. Then methodically ask these four types of questions and let the prospect tell you exactly what they need to be successful. If your solution aligns to the GRCO answers, you are then ready to ask your closing question – and get a "Yes" response. 

Good luck! Let me know how it works for you – I’m always interested in hearing about your experiences.