Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The ABCs of Sales - Q is for Questions

Ask more questions.  This is the best piece of advice I can share with you, and it will make you more successful in sales and all other aspects of life that involves interacting with humans.

If you want to establish real relationships and understand what motivates those whom you are engaged with you have to ask questions and listen to what they have to say. 

Talking is easy, but listening is the key to all success.  When you are the one speaking, you cannot be learning. When the other person is telling you about their situation they are leaving clues that will help you solve their problems.  People buy from you to fill a void or fix an issue, and if you are not clear on their motivation, they will buy from the sales person who shows them they understand.

Customers buy your product or service on their terms, not yours.  We spend a lot of time memorizing elevator pitches and product positioning statements, but if we simply memorized more open-ended questions, we could create better connections and win more business.

I will admit that I have struggled with this all my life. I am a story-teller by nature and having grown up in a big Irish family I learned early to spin a tale. I like to entertain others, and a good story is a natural way to make a connection.  But in sales it can also hurt if you lead with too many words. I continue to learn this lesson, but when I begin with an inquisitive intention and actively hear what the prospect has to say, I close more sales. 

A good way to remember to ask more questions before presenting your solutions is to prepare a list of things to ask everyone.  This list will vary based on your industry and the individual with whom you are talking, but you should start with two or three open-ended questions that allows them to share the details they are facing.  After they spell out the big picture you need to move into clarifying questions to make sure that you are clear on their unique situation.  Everyone faces different situations and when you make assumptions about why they are looking to buy, it can be far too easy to slide into a canned pitch.

It is okay to keep a list of written questions with you so that you can refer to them.  Most people will appreciate the attention to detail you are paying to their unique circumstances.  Over time these questions will become easier to remember and you will train yourself not to lead with too much talking.

You can practice this anywhere, even in non-sales settings.  Each time you meet someone new try to ask them three questions in a causal but genuinely curious manner. They should not be canned like "what's your name?" or "Where do you work?", although in a polite situation those might be necessary questions, too.  Try to get to what motivates them or how they got where they are.  I tried this experiment in line at a Starbucks recently and had a very interesting conversation with a World War II veteran and his grandson. While it was not a business conversation, it was fascinating and made my whole day better.

Being curious about people in all aspects of your life can be a secret weapon. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer

*Thom Singer is a keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies.  He talks regularly to corporate audiences in competitive industries that are sales focused and whose people are seeking greater success.

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