In sales and business in general, we have an incredible opportunity to learn from those we interact with daily. We can learn about customers and their business, industry, concerns, outlook, and more. We can dig deeper and learn about their goals, aspirations, and desires. We also have the opportunity to learn about ourselves through the process. This learning can only come from inquiry, but not all inquiry is the same. The power of learning comes through the process of asking the right questions at the right time, and then listening attentively and taking detailed notes to ensure that we retain the information.
Asking the right questions will produce the best information possible. Asking the right question at the right time may produce a game-changing conversation that can change your relationship and accelerate the pace of the sale. So how do you know which question to ask and when to ask it? Let’s start with the basics first and move on from there.
Salespeople get paid to uncover new sales opportunities. We are investigators of a sort, working diligently to determine who could be a potential customer; what product, service or solution that potential customer can use; how they can use it; when they would use it; and most importantly, why they would need or want to use it. These are the basis of our initial inquiry and build the foundation of information needed to guide us through the sales process.
Although you may have the introductory questions to ask, it is important to note that there is a bit of style that needs to be employed to make this process as natural as possible. I have been witness too many times to sales reps or agents failing to engage a new business or customer. Often, they only succeed in fumbling over their words and creating a very awkward situation. This typically does not lead to anything good. The art of asking questions comes through your natural ability to carry a conversation. It is through this conversation that you create an environment where the prospect or customer feels safe and secure so that information can be shared.
If you are still unsure about how to engage, I would recommend that you practice out loud with a partner or friend. Be conscious if you are asking open-ended or closed-ended questions. An open-ended question creates opportunities for sharing information. A close-ended question can be answered with a one-word response and does not leave room for further elaboration. As an example, if I asked, “Did you like that movie?”, you could simply answer “yes”. This is an example of a closed-ended question. If I were to ask you “What did you like about that movie?”, it would be an open-ended question which would stimulate further conversation. As you practice your questioning in your sales environment, you will familiarize yourself with standard responses or objections that may come up frequently. Only through practice and constant interaction can you become more fluid at this.
Remember, you have been engaging in conversations throughout your whole life. You have years and years of experience under your belt. Now you may have had less experience discussing the topic of your product, solution or service, but you still know how to talk. You still know how to introduce yourself. You still know how to smile. These are the basics. Start by initiating a conversation where you introduce yourself, say hello, and ask how they are doing. This is half the battle. Through this process, you will become more comfortable with yourself and promote an atmosphere where others will want to engage with you.
Seek to understand. As you are gathering your information, you goal is to seek to understand your customer or confirm your understanding from your research. Your job is to continue to ask questions to stimulate the sharing of information. You are trying to uncover not only all of the facts of the opportunity, but also all of the emotions that accompany the facts. It is not merely the mechanics of how something is being done that is important. What becomes equally important are the emotions created and experienced through that process. To truly understand the customer, you must work to unravel each of these items with them. Surprises and epiphanies may arise along the way. This is normal. As you invite someone to speak about themselves and their business out loud, interesting things happen and discoveries are made. Put yourself in their shoes and look for their motivation. As you internalize this, you will have a greater understanding as to why they do what they do. By having this perspective and insight, it will be easier for you to provide a more thorough solution for them and will also assist in building your relationship.
Excerpt from “Capture Your Power in Sales and Business” ©2018