At all sales training sessions, coaches use the mantra: “Ask questions, ideally open questions.” Using this principle, and being a young salesperson myself, I’ve asked customers a lot of questions, and I haven’t sold much. Now I know where I made a mistake. And that’s why I decided to write this article.

I used to think that questions are just the beginning of the sales process. Now I know that they’re the second-to-last element of the sales process, and the last on the part of the salesperson.

First you have to answer three key questions:

- What should I know about the client?

- What will I do when I know? - How can I use this information in further conversation?

Answering these questions allows you, as the seller, to learn the most important thing – the customer’s intentions. In other words, before you ask the customer a question, you should know why you’re asking. If you don’t have a reason, the answer will be worthless. It is as if you wanted to demolish a wall - you’ve gathered the tools because someone told you that you should have them, and now you would wonder what they’re for. You may have something, but the wall’s still standing. So what are the tools worth? Nothing. That is, unless you figure it out as you start to use them. Then their value changes. It’s the same with the knowledge and information you receive from the customer in any sales conversation.

Toilet paper is more interesting

In my first job at a big company I had a real problem with sales. I met with customers and talked about our products, but it really didn’t go my way. My colleagues were selling, but I wasn’t. In the end I got a coach to help me. He said that I should learn to strictly follow a sale script, asking the questions on the script one-by-one. Then I would start selling for sure. That’s what I started to do. I met with a customer who, as it much later turned out, gave me one of the most valuable lessons of my life. During the conversation I did exactly as the coach instructed - I asked question after scripted question. At some point the customer stopped me: “Simon, am I right that we’re going to touch on topic X, and then Y?” Confused, I said: “Yes, and how do you know...?” I heard the magic words: “You know, toilet paper is less predictable than this conversation.” I sat there, not knowing what to do. After a while, the customer completed the thought: “If you want to sell well, you’ll have to learn to listen and pick out what’s most important from what the client says." I thanked him and we ended the meeting.

You have everything you need

Recently I discovered yet another remarkable thing. It turns out that the customer will provide you with all the information they need to be able to buy something from you. I should emphasize: “To buy something from YOU!” People really don’t like to be sold things. But all of us, without exception, love to buy things. And it is worth remembering one simple rule - when asked about something, you must answer. Always. Often even the stupidest questions are answered. Even a simple ‘I don’t know’ provides certain information. The final conclusion is as follows: A properly-asked question, based on the salesperson’s awareness of the situation (what I want to know and why I need this information) gives you the opportunity to obtain all information necessary for the customer to make a purchasing decision. And now the most interesting part: the fact that the customer will provide you with this information is one thing. The second important thing is that the customer provides it to themselves.

Every salesperson’s job is to ask the customer questions which will lead them to discover their own motives. That’s especially true when you want to meet a potential client. It’s a little easier when the customer comes to you. However, the fact that they came to you doesn’t mean they’re going to buy something. They can leave at any moment and go for the competition. Remember - the customer themselves is the only real source of sales information and arguments! They’ll provide you with everything you need. You just have to ask.

The remaining 63% of the article is available for logged-in service users.

If you have an active subscription, go to login. If you are not yet our Reader, please choose the best SUBSCRIPTION VALUE..

Log in Order a subscription Buy this article
Favorites Print

Also check

Verbal roadblocks ‑ that is, what not to tell the customer

SELL_12_47.jpeg

More and more often, we’re told that we live in a time of cacophony and information overload. We see and hear too much information, too many ads and too many offers. This isn’t a natural phenomenon, and it has changed the reality of sales. Let’s take a look at which words and phrases are helpful, and which put up roadblocks for our customers.

Read more

Don't tense up with tenses. How to become the master of the past, the present and the future. Part II

SELL_12_40.jpeg

In the previous issue of Sell It in English readers had the opportunity to get acquainted with simple and progressive (continuous) tenses, time frames and placing actions expressed in these tenses in time. I did not want to present the subject in a conventional manner, therefore I didn’t approach it like classic textbooks do. This time, on the other hand, I will occasionally refer to definitions or descriptions which are typical for textbooks from which one can learn English. Nevertheless, I still believe that understanding tenses and how the actions they describe relate to time can be an interesting and inspiring journey into the realm of English grammar. So, I will not fully deviate from the style I used in the previous articles.

Read more

"We've gone to too much trouble to give up now!"

SELL_11_48.jpeg

You probably know the saying: ‘give a finger and they’ll take your whole hand’. It’s often said by parents who are trying to explain to their children that they’re crossing the line. This saying can also apply to sales. Let’s start from the beginning.

Read more

Go to

Partners

Advertisement