Everyone Wants to be Listened to – Unfortunately so do Sales People
If you dig deeper and deeper into your customer's business, questions and answers fade. It does not matter anymore if the answers have been found. "The answers become relevant as soon as the questions have been dropped," said Krishnamurti. When you get to this area of common ground, it becomes difficult to distinguish sales person from customer. However, shockingly few sales people are willing to expose themselves and their customer to this very close level of connection.
Use your information and good questions as a tool to collaborate evidence. Questions can be very effective to cross check and triangulate information that your customer gives you that is suspicious or conflicting with previous information. "Cross check your questions with customers with a series of questions to verify and validate. Careless questions can result in misleading responses. Slight errors in the formation of questions result in gross errors in the answers that follow," says David Hawkins.
The only time it is appropriate and productive to ask leading and biased questions is when you are getting stalled and shut down. This is also the only time you can try to force a customer's hand to get critical answers to your questions; the good, the bad and the ugly. Damage control questions allow you to cut your losses, get closure and save time and resources. Do not be afraid to state the obvious when your gut tells you you are barking up the wrong tree. So if you cannot qualify a customer or get closure, then you need to disqualify yourself, or recluse yourself.
According to ES Research, 80% of sales are lost due to inadequate or nonexistent qualification process and sales process. Keep in mind the old military dictum, he who defends everything defends nothing. New sales dictum; he who tries to sell everyone often goes home selling no one. That is what sales people are doing so often. They spread themselves too thin with useless opportunities that are not properly qualified and are low probability.
Two heads are better than one. When you question and intently listen, you are tapping into a collective intelligence that most information and traditional sellers are not interested in. "When you are so busy showcasing your wares, collective IQ drops," says Stephen Smith. Good questions lead your customers to think for themselves. It does not tell them what to think, but encourages them and shows them how to think differently about their business and their challenges. Most intelligent customers want to think for themselves and be free of outside influence as much as humanly possible.
To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, propaganda (selling) ends where dialogue (questioning) begins. If you cannot put your sales point into the form of a question, then maybe it is not a very good sales point. Information giving is passive, asking questions elicits active participation. "Traditional selling strategies encourages sales people to believe that maximum information from customers jeopardizes rather than helps their sales efforts. The classic sales person fears by investigating the customer's objectives, they will discover that they can't buy," says Josh Costell.
Ask questions as if you had nothing to lose to maximize credibility and collection of sensitive information. However, as long as questions are viewed as a means to an end customers will have their guards up.