The Persuasive Power of Polar Questions

Great persuaders and effective sales people know the power of a well-crafted question. The question opens the buyer’s mind to a new potential with the new product or idea. But what many don’t understand is the added power they have when they can uncover the polar nature of sales opportunity: the problem (pain) and the solution (gain).

A sales person stood at the head of a conference table, about to begin her sales pitch to a buying committee of eight people. She had no PowerPoint, just a whiteboard. She knew the client was unhappy with their current software solution. Standing by the left side of the large whiteboard she asked, “What is it you don’t like about your current solution?”

Hesitant at first, each person gave her an “issue” with the current solution. Using a red pen she wrote each issue on the left of the whiteboard and followed up asking for specific examples of how that “issue” impacted them. She was having a productive discussion with her prospect and half of the whiteboard was filled with “pains.”

She paused, looked at the list, then walked to the right side, picked up a black marker and said, “Well, I can see that would be tough for your business. What would you like to see in a new solution?” The responses came more easily this time. She would repeat back what she heard, and then would write it on the whiteboard. Drilling down further she would ask what specific gains they would like to see in the new solution.

Looking at the list of desired “gains” she circled the ones that her solution could provide and asked, “Would you like to see how our solution could help you with these gains from your list?” The answer was an excited yes, and she soon got the deal.

Polar Questions empowered our sales person to do a deep-dive into the prospect’s pains, giving her specific examples that she could refer to later; she was knee-deep in the prospect’s pain! She empathized with a crossover statement and did another deep-dive into the prospect’s desires for the new solution. She helped clarify and amplify the gulf between the prospect’s pain and desired gain; her buyer felt the urgency.

Value lies between the pain and the gain; the greater the gulf the greater the potential value. If the distance is indiscernible, the value will be soft and your buyer will drag their feet.

Polar Questions may help you if:

  • You’re a sales person moving heaven and earth to get a prospect to make a faster buying decision
  • You’re a CEO trying to convince your team to pursue a new course
  • You’re a parent trying to persuade your child to do something that’s good for them
  • You’re a spouse hoping to sway your other half of the benefits of purchasing of a new home
  • You’re a politician trying to win over a voter to your policy change

The benefits of Polar Questions are many, but most importantly they will:

  • Get your buyer to move faster
  • Increase your leverage with your buyer
  • Illustrate how to best serve your buyer

So if you want to improve your persuasive ability, asking effective questions. But if you really want to ramp it up, use Polar Questions to help your buyer better understand the real value of your solution or idea. They will have a greater sense of urgency and you will know how to best serve them.


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