Special to the State Gazette
Curiosity may have killed the cat -- but in sales, curiosity can almost always close the deal.
Questions are a powerful tool in the sales process, but if you're only using questions to identify your prospect's needs at the beginning of the sales process, you may be missing key opportunities. If you're not integrating questions from start to finish, you may not catch possibilities for cross-selling and up-selling -- and you might as well be trying to overcome objections blindfolded.
One good rule of thumb is to ask three questions for every statement you make in the initial prospect meeting. Some sales professionals are concerned that asking too many questions won't give them the opportunity to persuade the prospect to consider their services. However, if you ask the right kinds of targeted questions, you won't need to persuade the prospect; they'll actually persuade themselves.
Your first set of questions should be aimed at identifying the prospect's needs. Once you've uncovered a serious problem that your products or services can solve, wait to give your pitch.
Instead, ask deep-dive questions about that need. For example, if your prospect agrees that not being able to consult with a law firm regularly is limiting his ability to capitalize on new opportunities quickly, ask about those negative effects. This will reinforce the seriousness of the problem in the prospect's mind.
Next, ask what he thinks the business might gain from having regular access to legal counsel.
Finally, assuming the benefits are realistic, ask what impact they might have for the company in the long run.
Once your prospect has recognized the seriousness of the problem, the benefits of the solution you want to propose, and how that solution can support his long-term vision, your prospect has given away the key to the safe. Now, all you have to do is fill in the gaps.
However, this isn't the time to stop asking questions. Once you've explained how your products or services can meet the prospect's needs, keep being curious -- to gather the prospect's first impressions of what you're proposing, to uncover any hidden objections, and to reveal additional opportunities for up-selling or cross-selling.
Many people are hesitant to answer a question with complete candor the first time it's asked. Instead, they may tell you what they think you want to hear, they may just provide a quick reflexive reaction, or they may gloss over the details for their own reasons.
By asking the same question in different ways several times, you'll be able to put together a complete picture, even if your prospect is purposefully being guarded.
Remember that the more the prospect talks, the more likely it is that they'll talk themselves into working with you.
Ashley McHugh, a training and development strategist at RedRover, can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.