When asked why salespeople don’t close more sales, a company president answered instantly, “They don’t ask enough questions.” He went on to add, “They’re so focused on getting prospects to buy they don’t engage them. That takes asking lots of questions.”
He’s on to something important. We’re in such a hurry to get across what we want to say to our prospects that we ignore what they want from us. As it turns out, today’s prospects won’t tolerate such insensitive behavior. They’re gone.
So, where does this leave salespeople? What are they to do if they can’t advance their agenda, how are they going to close sales? To put it bluntly, a salesperson’s agenda is irrelevant; it doesn’t count. It’s what the prospect cares about that demands our attention.
The purpose of meeting with prospects is to recognize and understand what’s going on with them. That takes getting them talking about what they know best: themselves. They don’t get many chances to do this. Others are too busy with their own lives to listen. This gives salespeople the unique opportunity to stop talking, start asking questions — and listening.
There’s irony in asking questions, in encouraging prospects to talk about themselves. When they do, they want to reciprocate, to say thank you, and to pay us back. And they do it by listening intently.
Prospects are focused when they’re talking, but they get distracted when someone else is speaking. Don’t fall into the trap of wanting to get your message across; the urge to tell your story kills sales. The job is creating conditions so your prospects can get their story across to you.
Since salespeople learn when they’re listening, here are eight questions that get prospects talking.
1. “I’m curious. Why did you agree to meet with me today?”
Everyone in sales knows that just because they ask for a meeting doesn’t mean a prospect will says yes. More often than not, they get turned down. When someone says yes, inquisitive salespeople don’t stop there. They wonder why. They want to know what’s going on and why prospects are interested. The more they know from the start, the better.
2. “What is it you would like to have happen as a result of this meeting?”
The purpose of asking questions is gathering information. This will help you keep an open mind so you can avoid making mistakes. By filling in the picture, you will stay on track as you plan your next moves.
3. “What are the specific issues you want to address?”
One mistake salespeople can make is to gloss over or even avoid significant issues. They don’t want to turn off prospects. What they don’t realize is that digging down lets a prospect know they’re serious. Follow up questions carry it another step further: How satisfied are you with your analysis? How would you feel, if someone challenged it?
4. “As you see it, what hurdles must be overcome?”