This whole month, My blog, monthly email, and individual client coaching sessions have been focused on the questioning aspect of sales. We’ve covered the purpose of questions, as well as the proper metrics based on data from several studies.
The data shows us that finding balance is important, and that balance comes down to having a sales questioning process that involves asking 11-14 questions in order to identify 3-4 issues/problems that a prospect is facing that could potentially be solved by the solution you are selling. Enough questions, but not too many questions, on enough subjects, but not too many subjects. If you’ve prepared in advance by researching what the most common issues facing your prospects are, you can easily get to 4 subjects in 11-14 questions. Your questioning hence leads to identifying pain points that you can solve, and being able to suggest your solution(s) as a cure to those pains. Enough said.
But there’s a flip side to questioning, that like the dark side of the force offers access to vast power. (unlike the dark side of the force, tapping into this power does not lead to death duel with your estranged son). The flip side is based on a powerful truth in the realm of communication.
Any information you share with a prospect is exponentially more powerful when it comes as a response to a question your prospect asked.
People tend to believe far more of what they discover themselves, versus what is pushed on them by someone else. That means that if you want to tap into the real power of questions, you also need to get your prospects to ask you the questions that lead to the information you want to share. This is what the author Jeffrey Gitomer hits 100% when he states that “People hate to be sold, but love to buy”. Another author and speaker, Bill Bartlett, explains it as “understanding that our role as sales people is to change how our prospects feel about our product” by creating the environment that makes it easy for them to buy.
So how do we do that? Well, the best path is to reverse engineer your way into the dark side of questions.
For example, you sell a business software which is brand neutral, in that it allows business machines from various manufacturers to communicate easily. This is a key product feature, because many companies have acquired their equipment over time, from different manufacturers. Your past questioning of your prospects has led you to understand that many are facing problems around getting all their gizmos to work together. this is a critical piece of your product’s value. As much as you want to just yell that out during the sales presentation, the science of questioning tells you that helping the prospect discover that is far more effective and convincing.
– Asking them questions (following the best practices discussed this month) to help them realize and vocalize that there is an issue, and the importance and urgency of that issue is the obvious main approach.
– The flip (or dark) side involves figuring out what you can say or ask, that causes the prospect to ask you that question “OK, but how will this software deal with the fact that not all our machines are from the same maker?” Even more powerful than the questions you ask, are the questions you get them to ask you.
Here’s the homework.
1) Identify and write down the top 3-4 selling points of your product
2) Identify and write down the specific pains/issues those selling points address
3) Identify and write down the 11-14 questions you can ask to get your prospect to admit to those pains
4) Identify and write down 4-5 statements you can make, that will likely lead your prospect to ask you a question for which the 3-4 top selling points are the answer
That should be your questioning plan. I consider myself a scientific sales professional. That means each and every thing in my process is thought out and deliberate. I try to leave nothing to chance. My very first sales manager was mean and gruff, and overall a pretty bad manager. He yelled a lot and did almost nothing correctly. Yet he used to say one thing that I took from him that has helped me immensely.
“This ain’t Kentucky Fried Chicken, so don’t wing it”
In other words, have a process and a plan for everything that matters. Questions matter in the world of sales.