Here are our seven core principles that will guide you to ask the right questions:
- Start with an attitude of curiosity
Any salesperson familiar with a consultative approach will use questions naturally, and asking intelligent questions comes from an attitude of curiosity. Think about it carefully – you are on a ‘quest’ for information. If you have children you will know that if they are curious about something, they will quite naturally ask questions. And curiosity is contagious so you will soon find that the person you are influencing becomes curious about their own situation! As Albert Einstein said “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing”.
- Have a clear outcome for your questions
You need to ask yourself “what am I trying to achieve by asking questions?” This avoids using unnecessary or random questions.
- Let the conversation flow naturally
Having good questioning techniques does not mean you must become an interrogator! Avoid the clipboard approach and let the conversation flow.
- Use both open and closed questions
– Open questions start with who, why, what, how, where and when
– Closed questions elicit a yes/no answer.
There is no evidence that we have ever seen to imply that open questions are more successful in making a sale, but it is likely that you will start with an open question to elicit information and there will be more open questions in a typical sales conversation. Use closed questions for clarification and agreement.
- Make your questions understandable
We have heard far too many sales questions that are frankly unintelligible. These include asking multiple questions as one question, asking a question and then answering it themselves or asking a question which is not really linked to what is being discussed. Make sales question straightforward to understand – often simple questions are the most powerful. Such as:
– What do you want?
– What are your key priorities?
– What is working for you?
– What is really going to make a difference?
- Ask questions that help you to pinpoint the dominant buying motivations
Specific needs and buying motivations are not always the same. Buying motivations are about desires and feelings – they are more emotional and intangible. You can discover what motivates your buyer- what they want- by asking simple questions, such as: ‘What kind of similar products or services have you brought in the past?’ The knowledge you gain will tell you what benefits to emphasise.
- Avoid offending your buyers!
Some questions can offended a prospect and cause them to reject you and your ideas. Avoid leading or ‘set up’ such as ‘You do want your children to have a fair chance, don’t you?’ What is the prospect going to say? “No! It’s a tough world- let them sink or swim!” Nosey, gossipy or overly personal questions can be a real turn off too, so stick to the business! Sometimes your manner can be threatening, for example instead of asking ‘how much do you want to spend?’, why not phrase it, “how much have you planned to invest?”.
We hope these guiding principles help you to improve your questioning, to gain clearer insight into what your buyer wants, and to be more successful in meeting that need.