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Educate Yourself Before You Educate the Customer

Make no mistake, most conventional sales people see questions as an interference of personal space, a hassle, overly time-consuming, invasion of privacy and as an interrogation. Too often conventional sales people feel like interlopers and intruders because they unconsciously feel guilty that their questions benefit them more than their customers.

This anxiety would go away if they asked questions that the customer was more interested in answering, than the sales person was interested in hearing the answer.

To sell is human. To question is divine. Divine questions are really million-dollar questions that are never asked because of the perceived risk. These high-payoff questions for the customer, to be effective and believable, have to have a strong element of perceived low payoff for the sales person. As long as the customer perceives that they have more to gain and learn from the question than the sales person, they will be far more likely to answer in a truthful and complete way.

It is unproductive for both parties to use questions solely for your own self-interest to forward your cause, and to use it as a means to triumphantly carry you across the goal line. To have your questions be well received and reflected upon, they should primarily be used to have the customer find out about things that they are possibly in denial on and discover things that they would not have discovered on their own.

So much of selling is confusing, confounding and left unresolved because of what you believe your customer meant, thought, felt and did not say. Sales people do not see things from the customer's unique point of view, because their point of view is so commanding and dominant. They do not ask questions because of their "surge" mentality and their direct frontal attack, sales strategy. These orthodox sales people are the antithesis of intelligence gatherers. They believe the sales call's purpose is to have the customer learn about them, instead of them learning about the customer.

A client of mine tells all his sales people that if they do not ask at least 8 to 10 good questions before they talk about their offering, he is going to start kicking them under the table while they are spewing. He tells them that deciding not to use questions as the hallmark of their sales strategy is like giving up before you even get started. Use it, or lose it he tells them.

Good questions are like bartenders and investigative reporters; they have a good balance of sympathetic listener and tough questioner in them. It is like tough love. How many customers comment after a sales call that the sales person really "got them," and took the time to really understand them? Unfortunately, due to the dearth of questioning skills in the profession, it is woefully few.

The question is do you ask questions to solely educate yourself, or do you ask questions to help the customer educate themselves about the range of actions and choices they have available? What do sales people do when they are no longer the main figure in their selling story? They ask questions.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com