Less telling, more asking!
Like many companies that approach me, this cry from the heart came from a group of specialists, in this case, a Biotech company. With brains like Einstein, when you ask them to tell you about their products, their industry or their technical knowledge they will give you facts, figures and statistics galore but what they couldn’t do with confidence was deliver sales ‘patter’. They did not feel like they had the language of sales or the ability to relate what they did to what their customers might need.
Too often their prospective customers would end a conversation by asking for information to be sent through, or leaving them to think about it. Sound familiar?
The interesting thing is, believing the answer to increasing sales is to develop a slicker ‘sales patter’ is a major misconception of selling. Many people assume that salespeople are ‘born’ not ‘made’ and that to be good in sales, you need to have some sort of silver tongue. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes, it’s true that some likeability factor is important in any service-based role. In sales, it helps if you like people and you can make people easily warm to you but even these rapport building skills can be learned and honed, however, the key skill in holding a sales conversation is not the ability to ‘tell and sell’, but the ability to ‘ask and listen’.
Throughout my 5-step sales process that I’ve developed and now teach around the globe, asking intelligent and detailed questions within a structured framework is the key differentiator between those that bomb or succeed in winning more business. I spend way more time with my clients teaching them these skills than helping them design any slick sales speak.
Asking the right questions will help you ‘engage’ your client in the first instance and allow you to lead them into a controlled conversation.
By following a structured qualification technique I call ‘finding the hot button’ you can negate almost all objections that could emerge later on. Obviously, you uncover what your client really needs and therefore what you need to base your sales solution on. Finally, you increase the momentum in the sale by increasing the client’s emotional attachment to you and your product – and this is before you’ve even revealed your proposed solution!
Questions help you judge the client’s commitment to the sale and evaluate their buying signals. By using specific questions in the form of ‘Tie-Downs’ and ‘Yes Momentums’ you can increase the momentum to a final close. Questions in the form of ‘Test Closes’ will ensure you only move the client towards a commitment when they are in the emotional state to commit to the purchase.
Asking intelligent questions, that really make your client think, particularly at the earlier stages of the conversation, will set you apart from others in your profession. Ask the same old, same old questions that everyone else asks, and your client will pigeonhole you along with those other dumbasses!
Ironically the one area of the sales conversation I discourage questions, particularly closed questions, is the one area that most people assume is the time they should be using them…and that’s when closing the sale! Anyone caught asking, “So would you like me to go ahead with that?” will earn a clip around his or her earhole from me!
Questions like this poor example destroy the hard work you’ve done earlier and could allow the client to wriggle away from you, even if they really do want to proceed with your suggestions. Whereas, if you’ve asked all of the right questions earlier on, you should be in a position to either assume the sale at this stage or use much more sophisticated methods to cement the client’s commitment.
Something for you to think about – what are the 25 or so questions that you could use with your prospects, that other people in your sector or industry are simply not asking?
Nicola Cook is an award-winning entrepreneur and twice published international best-selling author on professional selling and personal & business growth. She is CEO of Company Shortcuts, a business devoted to improving business results by injecting skill, passion and strategy to help those entrepreneurs and sales enthusiasts achieve the sales results they desire.