Ask smart questions, they think you’re smart. Ask dumb…
Sales Truth: Salespeople become known by the questions they ask.
Knowing this truth, you’d think all salespeople would ask smart questions. You’d be thinking wrong. It never ceases to amaze me, that with all the options salespeople have, they choose to alienate, anger or cause doubt in the mind of the prospect by setting the wrong tone with their questions.
Who are you currently using…? Pre-call research should tell you that. And maybe the prospect feels that’s none of your business. Good start.
Are you satisfied with your present…? Everyone will tell you they’re satisfied. So what? Well, OK, if you’re satisfied, I’ll just leave and quit.
How much are you currently paying for…? None of your business #2. Let’s get down to price as fast as you can.
Can I quote you on…? Why send a quote—the next person who quotes 2¢ cheaper gets the business. What about the value?
Can I bid on…? Same as a “quote” only worse. This is a 100% price driven sale. Low margin. Low profit. Low commission. Low percentage of success. How low do you want to go?
Tell me a little bit about your business? No. It’s a waste of the prospect’s time. Find out a little bit about the prospect’s business so you can go into the sales call with answers and ideas that may get the prospect excited enough to buy.
Are you the person who decides about…? Come on. This is THE question that breeds the most lies. The answer is most often “yes,” and the answer most often is false. Why ask a question that breeds misleading information? The correct question to ask is: How will the decision be made?
If I could save you some money, would you…? Every salesperson thinks that the customer will jump at the hint of saving money. This tactic actually has a negative effect on the buyer and makes the salesperson work twice as hard to prove himself and usually at a lower price (and lower commission).
And the worst question of them all: What would it take to get (earn) your business? This question literally is saying to the prospect: “Look, I don’t have much time here. Could you just tell me the quickest way to get this order, and make me do the least amount of work possible to get it.”
DUMB WORDS: Let’s add a bunch of negative words that prospects hate or gets their guard up—today, frankly, honestly, if I were you, or anything negative about the previous choice they made or anything negative about your competition.
Now, before you get all hostile on me, I’m not saying don’t get this information. I am saying there are smarter, better ways of getting this information that will lead you to a sale. The questions above make the prospect have a lower opinion of you, and that will lead to nothing but price wars and frustration.
These are all “price driven questions.” In other words they are the kind of questions where the sale boils down to the price. And if you want the sale real bad—simple, just lower your price to where you make little or no profit. Duh.
The secret of good (smart) questions are those that make the prospect stop and think, and answer in terms of you. If you ask people questions that you could have found out the answer by some means as simple as looking up the information on their web site, how intelligent or hard working does that make you look? Not very.
NOTE: You do have the luxury of asking a weak question about their stuff, if you preface it with the statement, “I was looking at your web site last night and I got a couple of ideas I’d like to talk to you about, but there were a few things I’d like to understand a little better about the way you serve your customer.” NOW YOU CAN ASK ANYTHING AND STILL LOOK SMART.
If you walk in with an IDEA that you got from reading their annual report, their trade magazine, or reading their web info, you will earn the respect of the person making the buying decision. You will also be viewed as credible. Respect and credibility lead to trust. Trust leads to sale. Think about that the next time you’re formulating a question.
Free RedBit: Want a few real smart questions? Well, since everyone sells something different, I’ll give you the lead-ins to the questions and you adapt it to whatever you sell. Fair enough? Go to Gitomer.com register if you are a first time user, and enter the words SMART QUESTIONS in the RedBit box.
Asking powerful questions will make prospects think in new ways. That’s the bold part. You ask questions to get prospects to give you information that will lead you closer to the sale. You want information that affected prospects in the past, so you want to find out about their past experiences. You want to understand their motives for buying. And—you want to find out what criteria they used in selecting you. To get prospects to think in new ways, you have to ask thought-provoking questions. Here’s a good example: “Mr. Jones, what would you do if you lost two of your top 10 customers?” That question is followed with, “What’s your plan to keep them loyal?” Now, those are questions that don’t have a specific product or service behind them. They may not fit everyone’s business, but baby, they are thought provoking. You might want to ask yourself the same questions.
What you ask sets the tone and the perception of the buyers. When you begin a question with the phrase “What’s been your experience with…?” prospects turn into wisdom providers instead of information providers. Instead of giving them your wisdom, buyers will like you a whole lot more when you ask for their wisdom. Unfortunately, salespeople think they have to “educate” buyers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Buyers don’t want an education. Buyers want answers. Your questions set the stage for the selling process—which is really the buying process. Your job is to set the buying tone by engaging the prospect intellectually and emotionally.
What you ask determines their response. If you’re looking to get into a battle about why your product is different from the competition’s product—or why your price is higher—just ask a dumb question about how the competition is treating the customer. If you ask a question about bidding or saving money, your answers are going to be in terms of “price” and “what kind of deal can you give me?” But if you ask value questions—questions about productivity and profit—you’re going to get answers that lead you to your prospects’ motives for buying.
What you ask makes or breaks the sale. If you know that questions are critical, why are you spending more time watching TV reruns than developing new questions? (NOTE: I just asked you a value question.) If you know that questions are critical, why don’t you have a list of 25 questions that your competition is not asking? The more thought provoking your questions, the more your prospective buyers will respect you. The higher that respect level is, the more likely they are to be truthful with you and give you insight into the key factors that will determine the sale. They will also begin to share the truth about how the decision is made. Every minute you’re in front of prospects they’re deciding how much they like you, how much they believe you, how much they respect you, how much confidence they have in you, and how much they trust you. All of these factors determine whether or not they will buy from you.
Your questions are a critical factor in the way your customers perceive you. If they’re intelligent and engaging, they consider you a person of value. If your questions are dumb, they consider you a salesperson of price.
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