How To Cut To The Chase With Your Prospects

by Paul Castain on May 3, 2011

Did you ever feel like your appointment was turning into a game of 20 questions and you are like one question away from asking “So is it animal or mineral already dude?”

I never really understood the guessing game dynamic that many meetings take on. Our prospects are busier than ever and simply don’t have the time and yet, sometimes it feels like we’re either getting warmer or colder and guess what? With every irrelevant question, I can’t imagine that they are thinking “Gosh this is fun”

Wouldn’t it be cool if there were on question you could ask on the front end of the meeting to everyone on point without the guessing game? Well the good news is that there is!

I usually start the meeting with an agenda statement, that is, a statement that sets the game plan for our time together. I check to see if there is anything the prospect would like to add and then I simply ask this question . . .

“Granted I called you, but what prompted you to take this meeting today?”

I learned the hard way that my old question “What prompted you to take our meeting today” encouraged a response of “Well; you called me so I wanted to hear what you had to say” I found I was letting the prospect off the hook too easily and not getting something strong enough to build a line of questioning around. Adding the “Granted I called you” helped me to build a stronger foundation.

I found that by asking this simple question, I would get responses like “Well we have this project coming up and . . . “ or “We are having some challenges with . .” This enables me to spend more time on the issue instead of guessing! I still get people that say “I was curious” I can work with curious, I just like to know on the front end of the meeting.

Someone once asked if anyone seemed put off that I was jumping right to the point. I’ve never experienced a problem with this approach and I have used it in various regions of the US. Note: I can, however, tell you numerous stories of a prospect who became agitated by a rep who was asking a bunch of questions that had no relevance on their current challenges/opportunities!

One final point: We need to realize that the quality of the answers we receive increase in direct proportion to the trust we build throughout the needs analysis. Don’t be surprised if you get some very general answers to this initial question. Be prepared to dig deeper, have them expand upon their thoughts, give you examples etc.

What are your thoughts?

“There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.”

James Nathan Miller

Paul Castain is a coach, a sales trainer, a speaker and all around cool dude. To learn more . . . click here!

  • Anne-Marie

    It always comes back to building relationships. LISTENING (not just hearing) and making it about THEM (relevance) and not ME! It’s about finding out what their needs are and matching up ways that you can help them. Communication is key!

    Thanks for another insightful post, Paul!

    Virtually Yours,

  • Jacqui Sakowski

    Yesterday when coaching a client she mentioned that one of her prospects is coming to her office for a visit and added “of course he made it clear that he’s not in the market right now.”

    When we discussed why would a busy exec make time to drive to a meeting for a product for which he’s not in the market she realized that he is in the market; he has not yet made a decision to buy. We agreed that she should take the view that he wants to buy and needs more information before committing.

    The very question we decided she should begin her meeting with is the one you discuss here. “I’m honored that you were interested to visit us today, and wonder what it was that prompted you to make the investment?”

  • Anonymous

    Paul, I like your style. The reason for a meeting is to get an order or get another meeting to get an order or get a third meeting to get an order … you know what I mean…. straight shooters win. My experience is that one has only a minute or two to close… after all the questions are answered.

    Sales people get paid to get the order and then follow-up to make sure the customer gets what he wants and needs. Every client I worked with appreciated being on purpose in a meeting.

  • paulcastain


    Thanks Anne-Marie!

  • paulcastain

    Thanks John!

    I like to cut to the chase to keep it from becoming a guessing game, aggravating the prospect and wasting lots of time all round.

    Thanks again!

  • paulcastain

    You said it so much better than I did Jacqui . . . well done!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Anonymous

    Getting to the point quickly is one of the most effective ways to create rapport with a busy executive.

    Good post, Paul!

  • SPGonz

    Paul –

    This is right on, and I don’t want to steal your thunder but I like to start the meetings with..”So Why Are We Here…?”

    I find people like DIRECT – People want DIRECT – and more importantly, people need DIRECT.

    Sometimes, we talk about building the relationship, and getting to know the client, etc…everyone’s time is extremely limited – buyers and sellers – being direct doesn’t mean you can’t build the relationship, it only means you are going to get to the point quicker!

    GREAT POST Paul – (but you already knew that!)


  • paulcastain

    That’s a great point Kelley!

    Nice blog post today on your site Kelley . . . well done!

  • paulcastain

    You aren’t stealing my thunder . . . I welcome the different perspectives so we can all have choices . . . thank you for your thoughts.

    And as for the kind words . . . thank you so much!

  • Scott Smeester

    Love it. Need it. Now I own it. Thanks!

  • Scott Smeester

    Love it. Need it. Now I own it. Thanks!

  • Ricardo Patrocínio

    Great question. And it can be followed by “How do you think we can help you?”

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