This month we’re going to build on last month’s tip about having an effective questioning strategy in sales discussions. We know that all salespeople try to ask questions, but in our experience very few do it effectively. This is borne out by customer feedback.
So, what do we want our sales interviews to be like? Let’s start with what they shouldn’t be:
- We’ve already discussed that they shouldn’t be about you talking and the customer listening.
- It shouldn’t be an interrogation. You can ask a lot of questions, but if they’re phrased poorly or asked in the wrong way they can be counter-productive in making the customer think they’re under attack.
- It shouldn’t be too structured or uptight, and it shouldn’t be about the salesperson selling anything. Ever! A little bit of structure but not too much!
- The sales person shouldn’t be preoccupied or give the impression they’d rather be elsewhere.
Your questioning strategy should result in a friendly discussion between 2 or more people. Yes your job is to sell products or services, but hard selling isn’t the best way to go about it. Here are some tips for using questions effectively:
- Ask well-structured open-ended questions to get the customer talking.
- When your customer is talking don’t interrupt!
- Appear interested, make eye contact, exhibit positive body language. You might ask how this relates to question technique, but it’s all about engaging the customer.
- Listen! Listening skills are perhaps the #1 sales skill.
- Likewise, make an effort to show that you’re interested by saying things like ‘aha’ and ‘right’ when the customer says something interesting. If they say something amazing like ‘we doubled our turnover last year’ respond with enthusiasm – ‘Wow that’s fantastic, how did you do that?
It’s all about making it conversational. At the end of a recent client meeting a client said to me ‘Wow, we could have had that discussion in the pub!’ And that’s what you should aim for, a friendly conversation between 2 people. If it’s in the pub preferably early in the evening!
Linking and Restating
When your customer is talking your job is to keep them talking. Talking about the right things obviously! So when your customer is telling you interesting and relevant things about their business encourage them to tell you more by asking questions like:
- Tell me more about that…
- You mentioned earlier about…what does that mean for your business?
- What challenges does that present for you / your business?
- How did you deal with that?
Try to develop your questioning strategy to the discussion at hand, this will make it more conversational and less interrogative. If possible, use the customer’s own words to restate questions and needs. This shows that you’re interested and that you’ve been listening to them!
We firmly believe the better you do this process of needs exploration, the easier the rest of the sales process will become and the more successful in sales you will be!