One of the challenges of being well versed and competent in your
industry or chosen profession, is the impulse it creates to share all
that knowledge. Specifically, in a sales setting, the presentations we
create and are so eager to share often gets us off on the wrong foot.
The sales conversation is not about your agenda. It is about theirs.
I recently discussed the increased potency of information supplied as a response to questions versus preemptively shared, and hence the idea of baiting prospects to ask the questions to which your information is the answer. Doing that comes down to asking great questions of our own. But what makes a good question?
I witness far too many situations where questions are wasted. The questions are either not designed to get insightful answers, or based on our agenda instead of theirs. Be it during prospecting or at the onset of a full needs assessment/presentation, there a two realities that are at play when it comes to questions.
1) The prospect will only have limited patience for questions.
2) The less the questions are about what’s important to them, the quicker they will run out of patience for those questions.
Keeping those main realities in mind, I usually coach my clients to have a well prepared and memorized set of questions. I often get asked what the good questions are, and my answer is that any question that generates a good answer, or a good return question is what you want. That will vary based on the situations, but here are some of my favorite four questions to open up a sales presentation.
– Why did you want to meet with me today? Assuming you’ve gotten the appointment, you probably have some idea. But things can change quickly, and people can forget. This question sets the stage that you are not there to sell something, but to solve something. It makes the interaction about their agenda.
– At the end of our time today, what do we need to have covered for you to consider it time well spent? Seems overly simple, but you’d be surprised at how often this prompts the client to prioritize their concerns and share them with me.
– What needs to happen for you to exceed the expectations of your superiors? Often it is not about them, but the people above them. They may want one thing, but need another to receive praise from the boss.
– What have you tried that has NOT worked? Failure is a great teacher. Asking THIS question has allowed me to learn from the failures that came before me. I end up looking smarter by leveraging the experience of others.
Ultimately, it comes down to slowing down on the impulse to share information, and replacing it with the drive to gather information.