What’s the worst sales habit? Not asking enough questions.
I knew this already; it’s been the case for years, but 50% of respondents in a recent TLSA Twitter poll said the same thing. Questioning is the most under-valued sales skill, and despite questioning skills being absolutely fundamental to sales, so many salespeople are still not getting it. And not getting it means missed sales opportunities.
There is clearly a demand in the sales sector for more training on questioning skills.
Questions are the foundation of customer engagement. They help you show an interest in the customer, build rapport and gain important information that you can use in the sales process. Questions also help give you a lot of control over the conversation, helping you gather all the information you need.
Questions are a portal to:
1. Understanding the customer
2. Gaining the information you need
3. In-depth insight on customer needs, decision factors and buying motives
4. Making sure your understanding of the customer is correct
5. Successfully asking for the business
Questions are the key to a wealth of resources that bring you closer to making the sale. But your ability to access all of this information depends on both the quality and quantity of the questions you’re asking.
There are five areas that you need to ask questions in:
- The business
- The industry
- The future
- The individuals in the decision-making process
- The client’s customers
Focusing on each of these areas in turn will engage your customers in an in-depth conversation that provides you with a well-rounded insight into their context and needs.
Ultimately, asking the right questions positions you as a professional who is interested in their business and helping them with their needs, potentially on a long-term basis.
But how should you ask all of these questions? Won’t it seem like an interrogation?
This is where the real skill comes in. There are several questioning styles, each with their own purpose and merits. This is much more complex than just varying between open and closed questions. For example, prefacing: a conversational style that is natural and gently paced; or labelling, where you introduce a question by outlining its purpose. Labelling also helps you swiftly manage a change of subject when you wish to move on to another area.
But how many sales people actually know all of this? And how many think that they know it, but are missing out on huge opportunities and business because they haven’t got the right technique nailed?
Asking the right questions, in the right way, can win you the business – and this takes practice. You need to be so well-versed in these techniques that the questions effortlessly flow from your tongue and you can invest most of your energy in actively listening to the answers to build a profile of the customer in your mind as the conversation progresses.
To discover the best questions you should be asking to make the sale, see our Effective Questioning Techniques Course.
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Brett Lyons is an international leadership consultant who has converted 35 years of sales experience into a range of eLearning tools that deliver real-world results. He is a training expert who specialises in coaching motivated leaders to drive their teams to success.