Great Questions Create Great Connections

SPIN selling provides a framework for getting prospects to ‘yes’

Most advisers and insurance agents eventually get to the point in their careers where they become very knowledgeable about the products and services they recommend. It’s just a natural progression. Unfortunately, so is what I call “veteran-it is,” which is the tendency to tell people what to do. As a result, many financial planning veterans can sever their connection with prospects and clients or never create one at all. The challenge is not in knowing what to sell but in helping the prospect or client know what they need to buy.

How do we do this? We do this by asking questions! Claude Levi-Strauss said it best: “The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions.” When we craft great questions, we create great connections because we aren’t telling people what they need to do. Instead, they are coming to their own conclusions.

The 4 Types of Questions-Based Selling Questions

Questions-based selling is a term used for asking a series of questions to guide a sales discussion down a clear path to help the prospect or client understand their current situation, the problems that they have, the implication of not fixing the problems, and the value of having the right solutions.

Related: The Solutions Formula

In addition, it is not so much about “what” questions to ask, but “how” to ask the right ones. The “how to” can be applied in any situation to get the positive results you desire because you are applying the tools and techniques that actually help the prospect bridge the gap between needs and solutions.

The following are the four types of questions-based selling questions, also known as SPIN selling because of the acronym that these types of questions spell out.

1. Situational-Based Questions

Situational-based questions uncover the prospect’s or client’s situation. These are fact-based questions such as, "How old are you? Do you have a company plan? When was the last time you reviewed it?”

Unfortunately, many advisers and insurance agents are stuck on only asking situational-based questions. As a result, they don’t help the prospect or client get to a deeper level of understanding. Take Dana M., a 30-year veteran bank financial adviser I’ve worked with, who is consistently given referrals by the personal bankers she knows. She explained that when she meets with the referred prospects, they seem satisfied with their current investments and typically don’t want to meet again. In other words, she wasn’t uncovering problems. She was merely telling them what she does and asking them about their current situation.

2. Problem-Based Questions

Problem-based questions are questions that uncover the problem with a current situation such as, “Does it concern you that you are 55 and you haven’t put enough money away for retirement? What concerns you most about not having a comfortable retirement?” Or, “What keeps you up at night when you think about not having enough in retirement?”

After Dana and I designed specific situational-based questions (which could lead to uncovering possible problems), she started asking them in her initial meetings. Her follow-up problem-based questions helped the prospects understand that they actually could have problems. This deepened the conversations because the prospects were starting to see the value in getting a second opinion on their investments.

3. Implication-Based Questions
Implication-based questions are questions that uncover the implications of not having a solution to the problem such as, “What are the consequences of not putting enough money away for retirement? Or, “What do you think would happen if you didn’t have enough money in retirement? Would you sell your house?”

As Dana applied implication-based questions, she realized that when the prospect was the one telling her the severity of not fixing the problem and what could happen over time, they were understanding the urgency that they may need some help now before it’s too late.

4. Needs/Pay-Off (N) Questions
Needs/pay-off questions are questions that uncover the value of your solution such as, “How would it benefit you most if I put together a complete financial plan that showed you how much money you will need in retirement, what kind of income you will have, and what would happen to your spouse if anything happened to you?”

Related: The Value of Goals-Based Financial Planning

After role playing the entire process, Dana started adding needs/pay-off questions to her dialogue and realized that the prospects were now telling her how valuable her services were. As a result, she easily got the second appointment!

Why Asking Great Questions Works

The reason Dana was having so much success was because she wasn’t just telling people what she does and what they needed to do. Instead, she asked them the right types of questions to help them understand how she could help them. If you can do the same, you will be making much better connections and getting your prospects and clients to realize their situation and how your solutions can be a benefit to them both short and long term.

Dan Finley has a 25-plus year successful brokerage career that began in 1993 and includes 14 years as a successful financial adviser. He has accumulated over 22,000 hours of individual and group sessions coaching financial advisers and insurance agents since 2004. He can be reached at 715-262-2040 or


Practice Management
Professional role
Lead Financial Planner
Career stage
Learning / Aspiring