I often see sales professionals who make their selling much harder than it needs to be. One way to help make selling easier is to ask good questions. The following are questions that I have found will produce better sales meetings and ultimately better sales.
1. “And why is that?” or “Why do you say that?”
Your customers and prospects will say some curious things. This is because they are getting their information from a variety of sources, and some sources are more reliable than others. One source of their misinformation is your competition. I’ve had customers tell me things that were technically incorrect, yet they were thinking these things were correct because a competitor had told them.
When you have to correct a misinformed prospect or customer, you’re being put into a difficult position. However, it’s even more dangerous not to correct customers who think that incorrect information is correct, especially if it’s influencing their buying decision. You do need to correct any misinformation.
When you ask your customers the questions “And why is that?” or “Why do you say that?” you are giving them the opportunity to share information and have a discussion about the information or data. A data discussion is much less polarizing than having a disagreement. Remember, in business, faulty processes and not people cause errors.
You also will sell better if you learn why people say certain things—even if what they say is correct. For example, you might learn that a manager is concerned about one specific area. The information that you learn will only help you to sell better because you’ll understand what your prospects and customers are thinking.
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2. “Why do you ask that?”
This question is related to the previous one. To be more effective in sales, you must learn why your prospects have questions. At the same time, you don’t want to appear to be too demanding, so if they have a question and you think the question needs to be answered, answer it first. After you have finished answering the question, ask your customer why they asked that question. When you ask why, be sure the tone of your voice isn’t too forceful so it doesn’t appear that you are questioning their authority to ask a question. Also, soften your volume so you appear less assertive.
Once the customer has given you their answer, confirm your understanding of their answer by saying, “So it sounds as if X is very important to you. Is that correct?”
3. “What do you mean by (insert ‘ambiguous word’)?”
Grey words, which are words that are open to interpretation, are words that get salespeople into trouble. Grey words make salespeople do unnecessary work, waste their time, and cost them money.
Here’s an example. I had a customer who called me one day and said he had an emergency; he needed an order “quickly.” I immediately said that I would work on it, and I called the refinery to see how quickly they could ship the order. The staff also was able to make some calls to move the order up and push some orders out so that my customer got his order in two days instead of seven. This took a back and forth of calls and most of my morning.