Generally speaking, people love to answer questions because a) they want to be liked, and b) they want to share who they are with others. The same is absolutely true of your leads. But don’t think that asking them just any ol’ question is going to instantly close new business. (Would you ask someone you’d never dated before if they’d marry you?) You have to persuade your leads that you’re honestly interested in learning more about them, which will encourage them to want to learn about you. In layman’s terms, you need to be good at conversation.
This is especially true for email prospectors, because the only way conversations thrive for them is through the back-and-forth replies they get from asking the appropriate questions. For example, say you first reach out to a lead by introducing yourself and asking them who the best person is to speak with about new business. That lead responds, says they’re the one, and asks why you want to know. You tell them, then offer a time to call.
Seem a little obvious? Well, don’t worry, prospecting isn’t that easy since most leads won’t respond to your first email. In fact, you’ll probably get a little antsy when they don’t respond, because you’ll think that means they aren’t reading your content. And the fewer responses you get, the more likely you are to turn to some tactics that, while they’re arguably “creative,” may not get you the results you’re looking for. Those include:
Overcompensating by asking too many questions
There are some marketers who think that their window of opportunity hinges on a single email. They spend a lot of time planning out its messaging, and make sure to cram it full of enough questions to fill a table of contents. The hope is that by blasting leads with a variety of questions, at least one of them will spark interest.
The reality? Most leads don’t know enough about you to see the value in filling out a survey.
That doesn’t mean your questions are bad, they’re just more effective if you spread them out in separate messages. People are much more receptive to follow-up questions, says HBR, because they show you’re actively listening. So ask them one, see what they say, then incorporate your others as appropriate follow-ups. Even if your leads still aren’t responding, follow-up questions can be an effective way to show your persistence in learning more about them.
Acting like you know your audience a little too well
You may be tempted to send an email that says, “I was told you’re in charge of [x] at your company,” because you assume that lead’s job title is enough proof. We won’t make the blanket statement that this won’t work — it can, depending on the industry you’re targeting and the products/services you’re trying to discuss. But we will say you should be careful. You’re taking a leap of faith that your lead won’t call your bluff — especially if they have nothing to do with what you’re asking. This happens when job titles aren’t consistent between companies, responsibilities may vary, and people change jobs or get promoted.
You’re much better off asking navigational questions that aren’t presumptive: “Are you the best person to talk to about [x]?” “Do you know who manages [y] at your business?” “Can you tell me who’s in charge of [z]?”
Falling into the Yes/No trap
On the one hand, it’s easier to ask or answer a Yes/No question. On the other, it’s also easier to ignore or forget them. Plus, they can shut your prospecting down pretty quickly. If someone tells you “No” after you’ve just asked them about trying out a demo of your product, are you then inclined to keep asking them to try it again next week? They might find that more than a little annoying.
Again, we won’t tell you to avoid these questions entirely, as they can still be relevant based on the products/services you offer, and the industries you’re targeting. What we will recommend is that if you still want to use them — especially more than once — it’s a good idea to switch up the verbiage so that they don’t sound like a broken record.
If you can, incorporate more open-ended questions, like asking leads what pain points they’re experiencing in their own business. Not only will they require a longer response, they’re more likely to prompt discussions that you can tie back to the solutions you offer. And they show leads that you’re interested in learning about them.
Pro tip: If you already know what those pain points are, thanks to your research and buyer personas, you can always ask your leads about each one individually as part of your follow-up cycle.
When in doubt, be brief
Regardless of the types of questions you’re asking, it’s usually best if you keep your messaging short, direct, and relevant. Your leads do need to understand who you are and why you’re emailing them, but they also don’t have time to sift through a novel before you get to the point. These aren’t like case studies or ebooks or — heaven forbid, a blog — so emails that are two or three paragraphs long will more than suffice.
If you’re not sure whether you’re asking your leads the right questions, it can’t hurt to get some constructive feedback. Share them with us, and we’ll tell you what we think! Or you can always schedule a free lead nurturing discussion by clicking the link below.