Your value to your customer is not measured by what you know, but by the questions that you ask. You add value by making your customer think. The way that you ask questions will differentiate you in the way that you sell. In the ever competitive environment that we are in, when products and services are becoming commodities, the way that we sell can be our biggest differentiator.
Add value during the sales process. Ask the right questions and your prospect will be only too pleased to give the time that you need to make the sale.
Knowledge is power and the more you know about your prospect’s company, business needs, decision matrix, personal needs / wants, problems / opportunities and your competition then the more likely you are to get the sale.
Effective questioning, probing and listening will enable you to get the critical information you need to qualify the prospect, plan your sales calls, produce presentations and close the deal.
Any talented business coach will also say that asking questions of the prospect also puts them at the centre of attention and shows that you care enough about them. You are looking to learn more about them, more about their problems, more about their opportunities and most importantly, you are getting the prospect to think. By asking questions, you move forward.
Generally, you should aim to speak no more than 30% of the time in a meeting, unless of course you are giving a formal presentation.
Effective questioning can:
- Provide you with the opportunity to help crystallise the prospect’s thinking.
- Help you build rapport and trust by showing that you understand
- Shows that you value the prospect’s opinion.
- Allows you to use their language, which helps build rapport.
- Allow you to gather vital information about the sale.
- Enable you to control the meeting effectively.
- Help minimise harmful misunderstandings that can occur.
- Help reduce the resistance to the sale.
Steps to apply when asking questions
Label the Question
Labelling a question before you ask it positions the question in the answerer’s mind. Labelling means that you first tell the answerer that you are going to ask them a question on a certain topic and then you ask them the question. The ‘label’ gives the answerer nanoseconds notice and this is enough time to allow them to formulate a deeper response.
Labelling also tends to make it safer to ask the question as you have explained why you need to ask the question in the first place. Asking pertinent questions without labelling, the answerer may be taken aback and start wondering why you have asked the question and therefore may avoid answering it.
General Questions before Specifics
You need to understand the territory on which the sale is going to be conducted. You need to understand where the borders are before moving into specific detail. There are three steps to this process.
First, ask broad open questions about the areas of possible interest. Then determine the priority areas. The third stage is to ask probing questions about the important broad topics in which the prospect is interested.
Time to Answer
Avoid multiple questions and allow enough time for the answerer to respond to your question before you move on to your next one. If you do not allow enough time for the answerer to respond, you are saying that the question was not that important in the first place.
Avoid too many Closed Questions
Asking too many closed questions will come across as if you are interrogating the answerer. Most people do not like to be interrogated. If you need to gather facts quickly, which means asking a series of closed questions, then tell the answerer what you are going to do.
Use the Person’s Name
People enjoy hearing their names and therefore use their name throughout the discussion while taking care not to overuse it. Without the use of the person’s name the discussion can come across as being very impersonal and therefore this does not build rapport.
Avoid Negative Questions
Negative questions may well put the answerer on the defensive and if so, rapport will not be built or rapport will be broken. Negative questions may well make the answerer feel stupid, incompetent, guilty, wrong, etc. Such feelings will not help the relationship. Avoid negative questions.
Allow the Answerer to Answer
Avoid asking a question and then answering it yourself before the answerer has been able to respond. If the answerer is taking time to think, then allow them the time. If they seem to be floundering, then help them get in a more resourceful state.
Allow Warm Up time
At the beginning of a meeting take time for a chit chat. Chit chat is not work related and therefore a more relaxed environment can be formed. Chit chat time will help build rapport and it will give you an opportunity to calibrate the answerer’s preferred sensory channel and perceptual filters.
It is always good to plan your sales calls and plan how you would like the meeting to go. However, you will need to remain flexible and change if things are not going to plan. Avoid ploughing through your ‘pitch’ if it is no longer appropriate.
Be confident when asking questions. You deserve and should expect an answer. Do not allow your voice to trail off at the end of the question. Make sure your question is not asked half heartedly. Imagine you are posing for corporate headshot photos; you don’t slouch or look bored, do you? Do not hesitate or show doubt. A lack of confidence may well allow the answerer to avoid the question.
Maintain Eye Contact
As part of the being confident process, you need to maintain direct, yet comfortable, eye contact after you have asked a question.
Use Sensory Language
Calibrate the answerer’s preferred sensory language and then construct your questions around this. Visual people see the world. Auditory people hear the world. Kinesthetic people feel the world.
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