The right open-ended sales questions provide information you need
If you’ve been in sales for any length of time, you’re skilled at creating strong selling questions to ask. Many are probably deep, probing questions. You know it’s important to ask open-ended sales questions, too. The obejctive, of course, is to determine precisely what the person needs so that you can offer the proper solution.
These questions reflect the research you’ve done, and show that you have at least a basic understanding of the client’s business and industry.
Your goal during most, perhaps all, of those meetings is to get a sale. Fine enough. Sometimes you need to work a bit. On occasion a customer throws a juicy curve ball at you. It goes like this: The customer announces that he’d like to buy a certain product (down to the product number and details).
In some cases the request makes sense. You’re excited to get the deal done, but you pause. You’re a mature, professional salesperson, and know that you need to know more. That comes from asking great sales questions. Remember that as the salesperson – and, therefore, the solutions provider – you need to make sure the customer gets the right product. There could me more to the story or the need.
While working in the ad agency business, I would occasionally get a call from someone interested in a brochure or other piece. Though excited about the prospect of the sale, I had to restrain myself. I knew there was more to the story. That came from following up with a great sales question.
Using the question would always ferret out the need – that is, how the person intended to use the piece – which allowed us to suggest the proper course of action. It could be a simple trifold brochure, but sometimes the final product was a bit more involved. Either way, we may not have taken the proper route if we had merely filled the customer’s request.
I learned this powerful sales question years ago, and I use it to this day:
“What are you trying to accomplish?”
(Variations include “What do you need it for?” and “What are you going to do with it?”)
An open-ended sales question like this gets to the heart of the client’s needs. It forces him or her to open up to you, by revealing the objective. By knowing how your client will use your product, you know better which one to recommend.
In the agency business, for example, a client might say that he’s preparing for a trade show. A trifold brochure, written specifically for the event, fills the bill nicely. (And is relatively inexpensive to produce.) It’s the objective – how the product is to be used – that fully identifies the need to you.
The next time you’re speaking with a customer about a new project, make sure you ask this great sales question. See what a difference it makes in your decision-making process.
For related reading, see “How to use visualization before a presentation or sales call” and “Don’t let a communications breakdown cost you customers.”
What powerful sales questions do you ask your customers? Feel free to comment below. And if you found this column valuable, could you do me a favor by sharing it with others? Thanks, and good luck in your business.