One of the key attributes of every successful sales rep and seller-doer is their ability to ask questions. Ask enough of the right kind of sales questions, and the buyer will tell you everything you need to know to earn their business.
There are all types of questions – during the exploratory phase of a relationship – that can help you to understand the problems and challenges faced by the buyer. And by understanding what’s happening there, allow you to solve their problem, and in the process, win the sale.
But not all questions serve that purpose. Sometimes, you need to understand the buying process itself, and where you stand in the mind of the buyer. Let’s call these ‘advance-the-sale questions.’ To help you understand this idea better, here are four [very effective] examples of what I’m talking about.
- “What’s going on with your current supplier that you reached out to us?” [early in the process]
- “Is there anything that would keep you from hiring us for this project?” [mid-late in the process]
- “I’ve answered all of your questions and I’m confident I understand your needs… so, how do we move forward together?” [late in the process]
But, by far, the very best advance-the-sale question isn’t mine. It actually comes from a friend of mine… John Boyens, a consultant and trainer whom I’ve known for years and it’s a question he posed to me many years ago when I was the COO of a healthcare marketing company. Here’s the question:
- “If you hire us – and it’s a year from now – how will you know you made a good decision?” [late in the process]
This is such a powerful question because if the buyer answers truthfully, he or she will tell you exactly what you need to do to be successful with them during your engagement. In addition, as they’re answering, they’re also envisioning a positive, productive, successful relationship with you. It really is an excellent sales question… maybe the best ever!
When it comes to exploratory calls with prospective buyers, you can’t just “show up and throw up!” Yet, that’s the M.O. of most seller-doers and sales reps. They’re so excited to finally get a meeting that they just can’t shut up… but that’s exactly what they need to do.
Are you familiar with the 80/20 rule? In this case, your exploratory sales calls should be 80% you asking sales questions… then listening and learning. Only then can you properly and effectively respond with your solutions (the final 20%). And along the way, these advance-the-sale questions can help you move toward a successful conclusion.
Good luck and good selling.