In sales, your level of success is strongly related to the type of questions that you ask. If you ask great questions, you will get great answers, engagement, create discussion and unlock potential buying opportunities. If you ask stupid questions, then you will be viewed as…. you get the point.
There are three questions that I continually hear being used by salespeople that are destroying any potential to create effective engagement and discover sales opportunities.
“Tell me about your business….” (as your opening question)
Why on earth are you asking such a broad-based question? Houston, we have a problem if this is your standard opening question!
Your prospect is now thinking “What possible value is there to either of us for me to start talking about my business and how is this related to the reason for this meeting?”
It shows that the salesperson has made zero effort to do some basic research through Google, Linkedin or other means prior to the meeting.
A better alternative for an opening question “What would be an ideal outcome of today’s meeting for you?”
“Are you happy with your current supplier / vendor…?”
If they say yes, you really have only two options. The first is to pick up all of your fancy sales literature, apologise for wasting their time and leave. The second, which many continue to do, is to start telling the prospect why your offering is better. Seriously? After asking a stupid question, you are now telling them that they were stupid to have gone with their current supplier and you are better. Please read this carefully, nobody wants to be told that they have made a mistake, that they were wrong and more important, nobody is sitting around hoping to hear your sales pitch.
A better alternative would be “How has your experience been with (suppliers name) and if you could improve anything, what would the top 3 things be that would make a difference to you?
If I can save you money, would you be interested?
Buyers hate to be asked manipulative closed questions and I believe that this question speaks only to price as the value. There are buyers (the minority) that will move based on price, but don’t be surprised when they also leave you for a cheaper price. Now whilst this is common knowledge for many salespeople, I continue to hear calls from salespeople asking if they can review what people are currently paying for certain products or services and see if they can save money. This might have worked 10 years ago but times have changed, buyers are savvier and you need to get prospects engaged with more value.
A better alternative is to frame how you have helped similar individuals/companies to be better off. In financial services it could be “I have helped numerous people reduce the cost of their risk cover by an average of 10%, whilst also increasing the amount of cover they receive. Would you be open to seeing if I could do the same for you?
It is a hard fact that successful sales professionals prepare and ask better questions than sales amateurs.
Work on yours and see your results increase!
Yours in sales, Mark Keating (CEO SalesGuru)
I encourage you to share any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org