A friendship that started about 30 years ago eventually developed into my good friend consulting me and my company. And he still consults me even today.
He is one of the smartest people I know. On one hand, uses his legal mind (he has a law degree) with a high level of logical thinking, and on the other hand, he displays a strong creative bent.
I still “kid” him today that his brain is warped!
Over the years he has opened my mind and taught me a lot about strategic thinking and planning (his logical thinking) and marketing (his creative thinking) and selling.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20. NIV
One of the greatest things he has taught me is the importance of how to ask high-quality discovery questions.
When we had our annual AQLTM (Ask Questions and Listen) QIC-Day, we divided our agenda into three parts…
- Ask Questions
- Becoming A Lean Enterprise
And during our session on asking questions we talked through some practical ways to use questions when selling our services.
Everyone can become a better salesperson by understanding three truths about using questions when selling.
I have found over the years that many salespeople have the bad habit of “doing the product dump” when talking with a customer.
They talk on and on about their product or service, pausing only long enough to take a breath. Then they dive back into their one-sided presentation.
This monologue from the salesperson makes it virtually impossible for them to build a relationship with, or discover the true needs of the customer.
No wonder this approach causes customers to run away as quickly as possible.
Top salespeople spend 50% to 95% of their time asking questions.
And you only get answers to the questions you ask.
Tip: Don’t tell people anything that you can ask them.
Contacting a customer and asking questions…
- Causes the customer to give you information that helps you decide if they need your services.
- Gives you control of the conversation.
- Helps you quickly identify if you are talking to a decision-maker.
- Saves you from wasting time (yours and theirs) on people who have no need of what you are selling
As you may know, there are two types of questions:
- Open probe questions– are more exploratory and discovery in nature. They encourage the customer to speak freely about a topic.
- Close probe questions– limit the customer’s response to a “yes” or “no” answer.
Discovery questions are designed to…
- Identify existing customer needs
- Identify problems and even challenges the customer didn’t realize existed
- Identify customer pain points
- Identify customer’s goals and a glimpse of potential objections
- Provide insight into what the customer knows and what they don’t know
- Provide insight into the top priorities that impact the customer’s decisions– decision criteria – and who is the decision-maker
- Help the customer evaluate what they are doing and why
- Demonstrate your credibility by your understanding of the product/service offering
- Create the image that you solve problems not just push products/services
During our AQL QIC-Day, we demonstrated open probe, selling questions that invite an explanation when talking with customers.
The following are sample “conversation” questions used when selling our moving and storage service:
Relationship Building Questions
At my company, I have learned that these questions help build “trust” with customers so they will believe what I’m about to tell them.
- What’s taking you to (destination)?
- Have you picked out a place to live?
- Where are you in your decision to select a mover?
- Who will be making the decision to select a moving service?
- When will you be making a decision to select a moving service?
- How will you go about making the decision?
- Is there anything I can do to help you make the decision?
Need/Desire Directed Questions
- What is the most important aspect of service to you?
- Have you moved long-distance before?
- How did everything go?
- What did you like/dislike?
- Why do you want to do your own packing?
- What kind of flexibility do you have in the dates you’ve selected?
- What kind of moving services do you have in mind?
Observation: We all are selling something – even in our family, with friends, and in the workplace or marketplace.
Most organizations are experiencing rapid change, and even internal functions (like billing and accounting) are experiencing the need to sell process and/or procedural changes to people in their organization.
Top salespeople use open-ended, exploratory questions every day. I believe that questions can help you build lasting relationships with your customers, learn about their needs and desires, and offer solutions to their problems.
Do you ask questions when you are selling or do you just “do the product dump”? How well do you ask questions to build relationships with your customers? Please leave me your thoughts <here> and share this blog post with a friend and co-worker.