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Can Asking Questions Be the Answer?


Good question - what do you think?

Unfortunately, most sales people "probe for the needs" of their prospects or clients, get a "canned" answer and present, present, present. There are two major (and several additional) problems with this approach:

  1. First, this selling style is very "I" centered, not "buyer" centered. By this I mean the sales person is really more interested in finding the opportunity to present all the wonderful knowledge they have about their product or service, not really listening to what the prospect's/client's real problem's are.
  2. Second, the prospect/client has heard these "canned" lines so often from the stereotypical big mouthed, obnoxious, pushy salesperson that called on them right before you did, that they know the game plan and have a practiced defense all ready.

Now I'm not saying that "probing for a need" is all bad. What I'm referring to, is the use of the concept by many sale people. (Probably not you, but maybe you know someone who could use this advice. Ahem!). Often I will hear someone trying to develop new business say; "Do you have a need for .....?" (canned question). More often than not, the canned response is "NO". End of sales call. What's worse is the answer is "YES" and the salesperson kicks in the autopilot and starts the "here's why I'm the greatest", canned presentation. They give away a lot of free information (specifications, unique ideas, prices, etc.) and then the prospect says "let me think it over" (read "NO").

The Concept

The sales concept is to attempt to find out what problems or issues the prospect/client may have that you and your product and/or service can assist them with. If you listen to the first indication of a need, and don't find the root, emotional attachment to that need, you will most likely not be solving the real problem. You will be responding only to the misleading defensive tactic of your client or prospect.

The Strategy

The strategy is to get the prospect to be open and honest with you so you can find their real issues and problems. They will only do that if they trust you. They will only trust you if they feel you thoroughly understand their concerns with the problem and the impact it has on them personally.

The Tactic

Ask questions. Listen to the answer. Ask another question. Listen for the answer. Ask another question, etc. The Rule of 3 states that you must ask at least 3 questions before you will find the real problem. Frequently your prospect will start to ask you questions that are a camouflaged indicator of their emotional attachment to the intellectual need. The only way to break through that facade is to answer their question with a question. Example:

Prospect: "How quickly can you deliver that product?"

Wimpy Salesperson: "We can usually ship it within ten days of the confirmed order."

Professional Salesperson: "Sounds like delivery is an important issue, what delivery times were you hoping to see?"

Prospect (to WIMP): "That might work, let me think it over and I'll get back with you." - It's over!

Prospect (to Professional): "We are really most comfortable with being able to call you with an order and having you deliver within the next week. Is that something your company can do?"

Professional: "Does that mean within 7 days or 10 days?"

Prospect: "Our maximum time frame is 10 days and the last supplier said 10 days, the delivery service lost the shipment for 5 days, and we lost a major client because we couldn't deliver our product on time."

Professional: "So delivery is a crucial issue, what is the impact of that on you?"

Prospect: "If we lose another client because we don't deliver, I'll lose my job! Can you guarantee me 10 day delivery?"

Professional: "If I could stock this item for you so you could call and receive immediate shipment, would that be worth making a long term commitment on?"

Prospect: "Absolutely!"

There are several very important rules to remember about this tactic:

  1. Always get permission to ask a lot of questions.
  2. Nurture every question so it doesn't sound harsh.
  3. If asked the same question twice in a row - answer it.

Feel free to contact us for more tips or tactics to grow your business.

Sandler Training in NYC

Sandler Training in NYC

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