What’s The Question?

Dan - another pathAsking the right questions will lead to sales

I have a question for you.  Or actually, more than one. Are you asking the right questions? When you are face to face with a customer, especially a new prospect, do you have a list of the right questions to ask? Are you like a good lawyer, asking penetrating questions that are not only designed to gather information but also to lead to a conclusion you want to reach? Are you asking the right questions? Questions so thoughtful, intelligent, and knowledgeable, questions that they will impress that customer? Do you have a line of questioning that is designed to go somewhere, that will move the relationship and the sale along?

No? well you should. All great sales people should have the ability to ask questions that matter. Questions that sell which is the title of new book by Paul Cherry that I’m I the middle of reading right now. The full title of the book is “Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants” and it’s a good one. In fact, I had to reluctantly, put it aside to write this column today. I would urge all of you who are serious about your craft of sales to get out there and pick up this book it will be well-worth the eighteen dollars or so, it will cost you.

The key to a successful sales call is to plan for it, lay it out in advance. Know what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, why you are going to ask these questions and what you goal is? What do you expect to gain from this particular sales call? Like the boy scouts, always be prepared and for heaven sake’s never wing it! I think I’ve said that before…maybe a few hundred times.

As an example, here is a line of questioning from Mr. Cherry’s book that I think you’ll find particularly useful when you are trying to help one of your customers solve a problem… a problem whose solution is based on buying your product or service, what a coincidence!

From the Book:

  1. Share with me your three biggest challenges. Of these three which one is the most pressing?
  2. What problems are you currently experiencing and why?
  3. What is causing these problems? Can you give me an example?
  4. What barriers are in your way?
  5. What’s working? What’s not? Why?
  6. What’s this problem costing you, in terms of time, money, resources, lost opportunities etc.?
  7. How long have you been experiencing this problem?
  8. Who else besides you is experiencing this problem?
  9. Think back to when you originally implemented this process. What were your expectations? What results are you currently getting? What kin of results would you like to get in the future?
  10. If you could win back the clock what would you change?
  11. Everyone has to deal with change. What changes are you encountering? What challenge is this change presenting?
  12. What are the biggest gripes you hear from your customers? From your internal customers?

Every one of these questions has a purpose and honestly, if you can get your potential customer to engage in this line of questioning you are just about there when it comes to getting her to become your customer.

As we have discussed many times, the more information we can find out about our customers the more effectively we can support them. Those of us who like to develop account plans and strategies are strong advocates of asking the right questions to our customers. The reason for this being in the end who better to advise you on how to be a valuable vendor to your customer than they customer himself?

Probably the most important block of information you can get from your customers is learning about their own customers. Discovering what they have to do to successfully market their own company. Here, again from the book a some of the questions you should be asking to learn more about your customers and what challenges they face when trying to successfully service their own customers.

  1. Who are your organization’s most valuable customers?
  2. Give me a profile of your typical client? An ideal client?
  3. How do your customers measure success as a result of doing business with you?
  4. Describe for me what an ideal customer looks like.
  5. What’s it going to take to get more of these types of customers?
  6. What do your customers expect from you as a vendor or supplier? What are their expectations?
  7. How have your customers’ expectations changed over the last years? What changes do you see moving forward?
  8. What steps will you need to take in order to adapt to those changed expectations?
  9. Customers have a lot of choices today. What would you say is the number one reason why they buy from you and not elsewhere?

Once again getting the answers to these questions will make you not only their most informed vendor they have, but their preferred vendor as well. It’s only common sense.

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