We have been looking at developing a questioning process for our presentations and how most salespeople are so desperate to talk about their products and services and all the solutions they can provide they end up talking too much and presenting solutions too soon therefore losing potential sales.
The trouble is the salesperson has seen the prospects problem many times before and therefore knows which solution would work best for them so jumps from problem straight to solution without helping the buyer to understand how big an issue they have.
There is only one perception that counts in a sales presentation – the buyers! We have to help them understand through our questions the need to take action. Asking the right questions will uncover the real issues and more importantly uncover the true buying motives of the prospect.
When I ask participants in my sales training workshops why they don’t ask more structured questions typical replies are –
“I don’t feel confident”
“I’ve never been trained”
“It takes too long”
“Prospects may be reluctant to answer”
“I’d be embarrassed”
The real result of a lack of structure in questioning is lost sales and increased costs of making sales.
Great questions require your prospects to think, they demonstrate your understanding of their needs, and they give you a clear picture of your prospects exact needs which in turn positions you to present the best possible solution.
Old sales training used to focus on only using open questions – questions that require a greater response answer as opposed to closed questions – questions that only require a yes or no answer.
Project Sigma sponsored by IBM and other corporations and conducted by Neil Rackham and his team observed over 35,000 sales calls in 23 countries found that calls high in closed questions were just as likely to lead to orders and advances. This is not so strange as it may at first appear. In theory, open questions result in open answers, while closed questions produce one-word answers. But in practice, this is not always the case. In the context of a sales call, 60 percent of all closed questions receive an answer that is longer than one word. In other words, closed questions very often get open answers. And about 10 percent of all open questions get a closed answer. The important thing is to ask skillful questions that move the call forward. “If you are worrying about things like how many open questions you’re asking”, Neil says, “You’re rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. What you should be worrying about is: Are your questions focused on issues that are important to the customer?”
If you only ever buy one book on selling I would recommend that book be SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. Neil has lead the revolution in selling. The key of course is to then read it and take action.
Structured questions channel the buyers thinking and help THEM tick off their own buying signals in their mind as the interview progresses.
I’ll deal more with the question of questions in the next article.
Quote of the Week:
“Generally speaking you aren’t learning much if your lips are moving”
Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Moss and Associates International.