Engage New Prospects by Asking Lock-On Questions

The lock-on question is a powerful tool that allows you to get customers to open up quickly.

Customers don’t verbalize real concerns

It’s amazing how you can talk with some customers for hours without ever pinpointing what’s really bothering them. These customers don’t verbalize their real concerns and problems 80 percent of the time. In other words, most of our time with customers is spent talking about the wrong stuff!

Customers mislead you

Customers don’t mean to mislead you. It’s simply human nature to try to conceal issues that might reveal vulnerability. By asking a lock-on question, instead of becoming bogged down in superficialities, the conversation reveals facts and experiences that really matter. You can use this information to better understand the customer’s emotions, beliefs and values.

Here’s why lock-on questions work: Though people avoid revealing their vulnerabilities directly, they often drop verbal hints about their true state of mind. It’s as if they’re saying: “If you can show me that you’re listening carefully enough to pick up on these clues, then I’m willing to trust you.

The lock-on question shows you’ve listened well, and at the same time allows you to direct the customer’s attention to a particular point, allowing you to move toward a solution quickly.

Lock-on questions clarify thoughts and feelings

I’ve found that lock-on questions help customers clarify their thoughts and feelings. Oftentimes in conversation customers will use words and phrases such as quality, partnership and streamlining the process without really defining them. Lock-on questions prod customers to articulate their problems and expand on their ideas. Begin by inviting the customer to talk about his or her situation. You’re listening for words that suggest underlying emotions. For example:

Customer: We’ve been trying to get this project off the ground for several months.
Lock-on question: I noticed you said the word trying. What has worked so far and what hasn’t?

“Trying” is the keyword to focus on in this example. It suggests some frustration at not being able to reach a goal. Another example:

Customer: I’m looking for a partner, not a vendor.
Lock-on question: Could you give me some specifics of what you mean when you say partner?

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Paul Cherry

For over two decades, sales expert and author PAUL CHERRY has helped B2B sales professionals close more deals in all major industries. As a recognized thought leader in customer engagement strategies, Paul Cherry has been featured in more than 250 publications, including Investor’s Business Daily, Selling Power, Inc., Sales & Marketing Management, The Kiplinger Letter, and Salesforce.

Performance Based Results

Paul Cherry is the president of Performance Based Results. PBR delivers intense, customized sales team training programs and sales management coaching to companies throughout North America. Paul has worked with more than 1,200 organizations, including 175 of the Fortune 500, plus more than a thousand entrepreneurial, small to mid-sized, cutting-edge businesses looking to dominate their niche markets. Clients typically get 7 times their return-on-investment (ROI) or better.

Questions That Sell

Paul Cherry’s top-rated bestseller, Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants (AMACOM) has been listed on BookAuthority’s “100 Best Sales Books of All Time” and has been published in four languages. He is also the author of Questions That Get Results (Wiley) and The Ultimate Sales Pro (HarperCollins Leadership).