Questioning Your Way to Higher Sales

Contrary to popular misconception, selling is a matter of asking, not telling, listening, not talking.

Any sales course or manufacturer’s tape will say the same thing: probe and find out what the customer wants or needs.

So why is it that when most salespeople get in front of a customer, all they do is talk, telling the customer what they think they need.

Let’s look at two examples of great salespeople: doctors and attorneys. When you go to the doctor’s office for an annual physical, there is a form with questions about your past medical history. You never see a doctor leave the room and say, “Shoot, I forgot to ask about heart disease. Oh well.”

It’s the doctor’s job to find out what is bothering you and then come up with a remedy to help you feel better. A salesperson should do the same thing. Ask questions first to find out about the customer, then if there is a remedy that will help the customer, offer it.

Probably the world’s best salespeople are attorneys. What is their job? To sell a group of 12 people on their ideas. How do they do it? By asking questions. Have you ever seen an attorney go into a courtroom without a legal pad full of questions? Of course not.

Also, they always know the answers to the questions before the witness answers. Attorneys are always prepared before they go into trial. Why aren’t sales people prepared? Usually they are reading a magazine in the waiting room before seeing the customer when they could be reviewing their notes or preparing new questions.

How to Get Started
Here’s a way to plan you line of questioning with customers.

First, get a piece of paper, and get ready to fill it with questions. The top of the page should have the customers name, contact person and the date. The following is an outline with some sample questions:

1. Operations – Ask questions about their business like “How long have you been in business? and “How many employees or locations do you have?

2. Decision making – The goal here is to find the right decision maker. The magic question is: “Who, besides yourself, participates in the decision-making process?”

3. Usage – Find out what they now use, asking questions about stock amount, quantity, etc.

4. Methods – Ask about current vendors. Who do they use, why and for how long? All these questions have answers, just ask.

5. Area of dissatisfaction – This is the tricky part of sales. Here you have to ask the question, “If you could change anything about your present vendor, what would that be?” If they are completely satisfied, ask more questions, and if you believe they are really happy with the way things are and you won’t make much of a difference, leave. But if they say they are dissatisfied with a certain area, move on to number 6.

6. Consequences – When you find an area of dissatisfaction, for instance, slow, service, respond by asking, “How does this affect you?” While telling you, they will relive the bad experience. Now it’s time for number 7.

7. Value – With the customer telling you about their frustration, with slow service, ask “What would it mean to you if we could provide on-time delivery all the time?”

8. Benefits – Now you get to talk about yourself. Until now you have been asking questions, just like a doctor or an attorney. But it’s time to talk about the benefits of your company, such as higher quality, easier operations, lower costs, etc.

When you go in asking, not telling, you will find yourself becoming a provider and not just another salesperson.

© Hal Becker  All Rights Reserved.


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