Simple Sales Tracking Blog

A Question of Questions

This week’s article brings us back to the subject of questioning.

Did you enjoy the last dinner you had out with friends?

You are probably wondering what that question has to do with sales. Bear with me a moment, and answer the question.

Now, pause a moment and think about what you did when you read that question. Your mind probably flashed back and you saw a picture in your mind’s eye of what you had for dinner. Then you recalled your response to the dinner, and made a judgment that you did or didn’t enjoy it.

Here’s the point. I was able to direct your thinking by asking you a question. You thought about what I wanted you to think about, and you thought about it in the way I wanted. That’s an illustration of the power of a question. It directs an individual’s thinking.

That’s what makes asking a good question the single most effective thing you can do with a customer. A well-phrased, appropriately timed question is your most powerful sales tool.

This is why we need to plan our questions in advance.

Here’s what good questions will do for you –

1.Good questions direct your customers thinking

When you use a good question, or a series of good questions, you penetrate your prospect’s mind and direct his/her thinking.

There is something in human beings that makes it almost impossible not to think of the answer when we are asked a question. I’m not sure whether it’s something genetic, or whether we’re conditioned from birth to always think of the answer to a question. Here’s an illustration. I’ll ask you a question, but I want you to not think of the answer. How old are you? If you’re like most of us, you thought of the answer, even after I indicated you shouldn’t.

Now, consider where the decision to buy your products or services takes place. It happens in the mind of your customer. A good question from you helps focus and shape the direction in which your customers mind works.

For example, suppose you’re shopping for a new car. The salesperson asks you, “Which is more important to you, good fuel economy, or quick pickup?” Until asked, you haven’t really thought of it that way. The salesperson’s question helps you understand what you really think, and directs your mind along a certain course. You’re thinking along that line, the conversation naturally proceeds based on the answer.

Similarly, you perform a service for your customers when you ask them good questions. Your questions direct their minds along certain paths, and help them clarify their thinking.

Clients often ask if this is manipulative selling. My answer is your goal is not to manipulate anyone. Your goal is to channel their thinking into areas that are a concern for them and establish if you can offer a solution.

2. A good question is your best means of collecting the information that will help you construct a sale.

How do you know what a customer thinks, or what his or her situation is, unless you ask a question? If you’re selling a new surgical glove, for example, you first ask questions to discover the surgeons concerns so that you are able to point out the specific features of the glove that meet those needs. Without first asking questions, you’re reduced to working on assumptions about the needs and interests of your customers.

You will do a far better job of selling your products and services if you first use good questions to understand your customer’s needs and interests. Good questions help you to see into the mind and heart of your customers, and equip you with the knowledge necessary to present the best possible solution for the client.

I will continue with the balance of the ideas on why good questions advance the sale in my next article.

Quote of the Week:
“Every sale has five basic obstacles
no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”
Zig Ziglar

Brett Burgess

BRETT BURGESS is a programme developer and facilitator for Sales Impact Group Ltd.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, ,

What Is It Costing You Not To Have a Systemised Sales Process?

Last time we were looking at why we need to develop good questioning processes. I want to explore this subject more, however let’s look at why it is so important to follow a questioning process in your sales presentation.

We know that following a process will increase your closing ratio and will therefore reduce the overall cost of making sales.

The cost of making a face to face sales call can range from $90 – $500 depending on the location and time.

What many of us fail to take into account when working out these costs are the hidden cost such as technical support, administration support, ongoing training – the list goes on.

Using $150/hr as an example lets look at what goes into making a sale

Preparation and getting the appointment – 1 hour
Face to Face presentation (including travel) – 2 hours
Preparing Proposal – 2 hours
Follow-up appointment to present/discuss proposal – 1.5 hours
Miscellaneous – phoning, research etc – 1.5 hours

The equation is 8 hours x 150 = $1200

This is assuming that you make the sale however there are very few companies in the world who have a 100% closing ratio. Most companies average 35%. This relates to proactive selling (you approach the prospect) as opposed to reactive selling (the prospects approach you)

A company I spoke with recently that actually measures its closing ratio admitted it was 23%.

For our example let’s work on 50% – this means that the cost of making a sale is around $2400. Even if it was only half this figure, it is still a huge cost.

Certainly makes you think about the skills of your sales team in relation to asking for the sale.

Studies have shown that in 62% of presentations the buyer is never asked to buy.

There can be a number of factors that cause low ratios including lack of process, poor prospects, failing to qualify, failing to establish a need or return on investment. Many of these issues can be rectified with training.

Businesses spend thousands of dollars on marketing and advertising to generate leads but are reluctant to invest in training their salespeople to maximise the rate at which they convert these leads into sales.

This in turn results in the very high cost of making each sale which brings me back to the importance of good questioning which I will come back to in my next article.

Quote of the Week –
Success is 20% skills and 80% attitude
Sales are 20% questioning and 80% listening


Brett Burgess


BRETT BURGESS is a programme developer and facilitator for Sales Impact Group Ltd.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy,

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Simple Sales Tracking is web-based sales CRM software for the tracking, analysis and forecasting of individual and team sales pipeline and contacts.

Built with simplicity at its core, focus is kept on key sales tasks, while eliminating unnecessary ones, helping to ensure buy-in of the entire sales team.
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