Have you ever sat with someone you just met and found yourself disconnected from the conversation?

The chances are that the other person seemed more interested in themselves than in connecting with you. It’s not your fault that you’ve lost interest in what is being said: if the other guy isn’t interested in what you have to say, why would you be interested in what he is saying? If he doesn’t ask engaging questions, how can he expect to engage with you?

The quickest way to lose a sale – or an opportunity to sell – is to stop listening. But in order to listen, you’ve got to utilize questioning strategies that give the other person the opportunity to tell you everything you need to know to close the deal.

Rule one of question-based selling is to ask engaging questions, and make sure those questions lead you to the information you need.

If you don’t ask the right questions, how will you ever know what the client needs, desires, and expects?

What are the right questions?

If your salespeople are having a tough time in the market and have reported back that they are “wasting time with the wrong people” or “not able to qualify the right leads”, then a review of their questioning strategies is urgently needed.

When using question-based selling, you’re inviting the prospect to engage with you and tell you about themselves, their business, their clients, and their needs. The aims of your questioning strategies should be to encourage the prospect to:

  • Think about what it is they really want
  • The benefits they want to realize
  • The value they want to receive

A good salesperson will ask engaging questions that encourage the prospect to reflect about the challenges they face. Open-ended questions give the prospect the opportunity to be expansive, and by asking such questions the salesperson will find out more about the prospect’s business and its needs. Using this knowledge, your salesperson will be able to demonstrate empathy and the benefits of your product or service to the prospect (now about to become a client).

At this stage, having identified the client’s needs and demonstrated that your product and/or service meets those needs and provides the benefits that will make a difference to the client’s business, the salesperson will move to closed-ended questions to close the sale. (Of course, the sale could be the acceptance of a meeting to discuss further with the aim of product/service sale at that meeting.)

When engaging questions engage the wrong person

Compare the approach above with that of a salesperson who is desperate to sell. The whole client meeting is about the product or service. The client will be told plenty, but will leave unsure of how the product really does what is needed. Often such a meeting ends with the salesperson asking, “Is there anything else you need to know?” The stock answer should not come as a surprise: “No, I think you’ve covered everything. I’ll be in touch.” And the salesperson doesn’t hear from the client again.

The salesperson has silently asked himself (or herself) the questions that he wants to answer. There is so much anxiety to close the sale that the potential sale sinks faster than the Titanic:

  • The salesperson is challenged due to a lack of preparation around questioning strategies
  • There has been no thought about what engaging questions to ask
  • The client is left being sold to rather than making the decision to buy

Today’s clients distrust salespeople that come across as commission driven: the client wants to feel in charge of their own destiny and buying decisions. A salesperson who comes across as genuinely interested in the client and the client’s problems will be seen as helpful, and wants to make a real difference. And that makes closing the sale an easier proposition.

Question-based selling encourages the client to review their own situation, identifying the problems encountered currently and in the future. The salesperson builds rapport, and opportunities for empathy are uncovered.

The salesperson, by listening to answers given to their engaging questions, will now be in a position to demonstrate specific product and service advantages that provide the solution and benefits the client really needs.

But how do you know what questions to ask?

With the advantage of using question-based selling techniques identified and accepted, the salesperson will need to build a questioning strategy to benefit from the new approach. The first step is in the preparation of questions to ask:

  • Before each sales call or visit, take time to review the client’s website and other online resources (such as LinkedIn and Facebook). Learn as much as possible about the client, and the person being visited.
  • Research the client’s specific market and audience.
  • From this analysis, develop 3 to 5 initial questions to further explore client needs. These questions will form the basis of the open-ended engaging questions that will get the client to think about their problems and present opportunities for discussion of the benefits of buying the service or product on offer.

Other considerations will include language to be used (power words will come into play), the order of questioning, and potential follow-up questions.

The benefits of question-based selling

Using a question-based selling strategy gives the salesperson a number of advantages:

  • The client becomes engaged in a conversation that naturally explores problems today and in the future.
  • It engenders a trusting relationship.
  • It allows a value proposition to be described by the client.
  • The client becomes motivated to buy as advantages and benefits of doing so become evident.
  • The closing of the sale becomes driven by the client’s desire to close, rather than the salesperson’s need to close.

But these are not the only benefits:

  • The salesperson will become more confident with every step of the process and resulting sale, and confident salespeople sell more.
  • With a better salesperson/client relationship, your company will find client retention improves.
  • As the techniques become embedded and questioning strategies become second nature, salespeople will move from prospect to closing faster − leaving more time to cultivate new clients.
  • With better sales and increasing morale, your employee turnover will fall, reducing costs of hiring and training.

Get what you need today

  • Do you want your sales to grow?
  • Do you want a highly motivated sales team, lower employee turnover, and high team morale?
  • Do you want your bottom line to reach its full potential?
  • Do you want clients that buy from you even during recessions?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to these four questions, make a start to revitalizing your sales team today by downloading the free sales training resource, The Power of the Question. After you’ve had time to digest and act on the sales advice contained in this resource, our coaching team will follow up with further free tips, information, and advice that will help transform your sales team and put your bottom line to where it should be.

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