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A seller's secret weapon!

How questions can increase response rates by 50%

July 7, 2021
Snigdha Nigam
Growth Marketing Consultant at Mesg.ai

One of my favourite scenes from the American sitcom, The Office, is when Michael Scott takes a sales meeting at Chili’s and doesn’t discuss the benefits of his product till the very end - engaging the prospect with jokes and food and personal stories, slowly building a relationship with him, before finally addressing the elephant in the room and making a sale. While we all want to be Michael Scott, creating that kind of connection is easier over Awesome Blossoms than over a cold email.

However, there are simple ways to engage with your prospect even in your very first outreach. A study by Boomerang suggests that emails that asked 1-3 questions are 50% more likely to get a response than emails asking no questions. Getting a positive response is the ultimate goal of your initial outreach. Hubspot recently reported that COVID led to a surge of sales emails by 71%, while response rates declined by 21%! So you’d want to try this technique to increase your odds for a positive response. But be careful. Just like with a drug, it’s about the right dosage. The key is to engage, and not annoy.

Why do questions work so well?

They start a conversation and make the reader think! If you’ve got your reader to visualise the problem that you want to address, you’ve set the stage to highlight the benefits of your product or service. It’s a neat way to build in buyer-centricity, besides engaging the prospect.

What’s more, asking questions in your email adds an intonation to your text and prevents them from being monotonous monologues. There’s also evidence that if you ask someone about themselves, they are more likely to like you.

Even in a cold email, you want your prospects to feel that you’re genuinely interested in their pain points. Questions are the simplest way to achieve that. Simple, but not easy.

What type of questions should you ask?

You could ask three types of questions - open-ended, closed-ended and rhetorical. But the best type for our purpose is an open-ended question. Closed questions have a concrete answer, but they don’t do much to spark an interest in your product. Rhetorical questions will take up precious space within an email that might already seem long to your prospect.

Open-ended questions help you manage the direction of your next conversation. They also help the prospect dig deeper into the problem at hand. If they’re thinking deeply, you’ve already made an impact on the person’s mind. Even if they don’t respond right away, they’ll remember you when you follow up. Some examples of open-ended questions are:

  • What are your priorities regarding hirings this year?
  • What would you like to optimize for in your sales process?

However, remember to keep the tone conversational and not interrogative. Be curious but do not pry.

Where do I ask my questions?

The best places to ask questions is at the beginning and at the end.

Having a question in the beginning will engage your prospect early on. Considering that 91.5% of opened outreach emails are ignored, you want to grasp their attention as soon as possible. Your question would also help set the context for your value proposition.

Leave your prospect with a question, employing the Zeigarnik effect. People are more likely to remember unfinished business than completed tasks. Asking a question at the end could potentially leave them with an urge to take action. However, be careful - if the question you leave them with has a high-friction ask, you’ll always be associated with the unpleasantness they felt with the question. Always keep the end low-friction and light!

How many questions can I ask?

It’s advisable to ask between 1-3 questions, but any more will have diminishing returns. Asking too many questions could make you seem intimidating, and that’s not what you want when developing a relationship. Keep it short and simple.

Chart showing that 1 to 3 questions work best

How do I manage so many concerns?

A sales rep spends an average of 13 hours a week writing emails. We know that it can be frustrating to personalize the sales message for every prospect, while keeping in mind all these concerns and keeping an eye on targets. With Mesg.ai, we give sales reps the insights of a data scientist and a professional copywriting expert, so that they can focus on what they do best - helping customers solve their pain points.

Final Thoughts:

Ask questions in your sales copy to

  • Engage your prospects and make them think
  • Help them remember you as a solution to their problem
  • Grab their attention in the beginning and leave an impact at the end
  • Demonstrate your genuine curiosity about their business

Let us know if it worked!

Speak to a member of the team to find out how Mesg.ai can help you scale your outreach.
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