We all have them. The one or two questions that we dread we will be asked by a client or prospect. It could be the question about how many clients you cover. Or it could be the question about the recent negative press, or maybe the one about a service or capability that you cannot currently offer. While we can hope and pray to be spared the scutiny, the most effective strategy is preparation.
For this reason, when I coach deals, I set aside a good chunk of time just to strategize how the team will respond to the gnarly questions. We start by making sure that we have listed every possible bombshell. We then identify who on the team is best prepared to answer the question, we discuss the content of the answer, and then, most importantly, we practice the answer in character. Sounds logical right? You may be thinking "we do that". And while you probably do most of this, what I have found is that the last step - answering the question in character- often gets cheated.
The tendancy is for the person assigned to the question to say something like "Oh, I will just tell them....". At the time, the content seems reasonable so everyone moves on to prepare for the next question. Then, too often, in the moment the question is asked by the prospect, the responder goes off the rail. The words are not quite coming out in the way that he had intended. The team holds their breath as he continues to ramble in circles in an effort to recover.
I'm sweating just thinking about it.
You will significantly decrease the likelihood of this scenario if you and your team are disciplined about answering questions in character. Have someone ask the question as the prospect might. Then the responder will answer it as he or she would in the actual meeting. This process provides a haven for the responder to try out a couple of ways to articulate the response and an opportunity for the rest of the team to listen as if they were the client so that they can provide feedback to improve the response.
Yes, it may take a few extra minutes, but it sure beats those awkward moments!