As salespeople we all know that we need to ask questions to understand the needs of our customers. Indeed, we all say that we do it and that we do understand their needs, even though 80% of customers say we don’t do it effectively! This makes you sales questioning strategy of vital importance.
But effective sales is more than asking a few random questions as a precursor to going into product-selling mode. High performing salespeople uncover all they need to know about their clients’ business before they even think about a solution.
We were talking to a salesperson recently who had just met with a new prospect. He told us that he fully understood the business of his prospect and their needs as they related to his business. When we asked him how he could possibly understand a 20 year business after only one hour with one of the directors, he struggled to come up with an answer. The answer is of course that he couldn’t fully understand the business after such limited time and he seemed embarrassed to have claimed that he did!
So here’s the rub – The better we understand the needs of our customers, the more effectively we will be able to sell to meet their needs. But often we have only limited time with the customer up front so the amount of time we have to understand their business may also limited.
The answer? Plan your questioning strategy to get the most out of the limited time you have with your customer!
At Hawthorn Business Group we work with our customers to help them grow their sales revenue. When we first meet with a prospect we set up the meeting by saying:
‘We’d like to ask you some questions to help us fully understand your business and your needs, to make sure that any solution that we might come up with is appropriate for you, is that ok?’
We then base our questioning strategy around the following groups:
- Background of the business (Having looked at their website prior to the meeting)
- Background of the individual.
- Company vision and sales culture.
- Sales objectives and aspirations.
- Sales management.
- Sales skills.
The questions will obviously differ depending upon the individual and the business, but it’s worth remembering the old axiom ‘You show your expertise by the questions you ask’.
You will need to work out the most effective groups of questions for your sales process. We suggest that everyone should have questions relating to 1 and 2 above prior to developing groupings that are relevant to your own products and services.
Many people say to us at they feel intrusive asking so many questions, but we think the reality is quite the opposite. Your customers will feel that you’re interested in them and that you really want to satisfy their needs rather than simply flog them a product. And when your prospect is talking, actively listen to their answers!
The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask!