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You Do Not Have the Right Answers Until You Have Asked the Right Questions

Stop selling with blinders on. Wake up, try to smell the roses and discern when manure is manure and roses are roses.

Customers are not one-dimensional and they do not perform their duties in isolation. They are complex, contradictory, multifaceted and full of variables and dichotomies.

Customers tend to overwhelm and seduce sales people by promising them more than they can deliver. Start paying more attention to their actions than their words. Ask tough questions to get to the real story. Qualify them to find out their challenges and their willingness to do anything different about them.

When it comes to asking questions, infinite patience produces immediate results. Also your stock goes up when you provide more questions than answers, assuming your customer is open-minded and trusts you.

Truly the best questions are the ones your customer struggles to come to terms with. Keep in mind, great questions are not necessarily meant to be answered. The goal is to get your customer to look at their issues and circumstances with another approach, and to have them look with a fresh perspective on how their results could be different.

Even when traditional sales people try to ask more questions, customers know that often the questions are designed to be self-serving. Customers also realize that too frequently sales people ask questions not to hear an answer, but because they want to talk and answer the question themselves. Just like cable news talk show hosts.

To master the art and science of questioning you cannot afford to be self-consumed with your solution, your product, yourself and your company. To ask effective questions it helps to have a healthy dose of detachment. The more you are enthusiastic and emotionally invested in the outcome of the sale, the harder it will be to hear the truth, to hear negative news, uncover hidden issues and have the time to ask tough questions.

When you are professionally detached you are not afraid to spell out all the options a customer has, and all the different paths that they can take with you, or without you. When you do not do this you are vulnerable to having customers fluctuate between conflicting internal and external issues and forces that just elongate the sales process, or outright kill it.

By having a healthy dose of disassociation and constructive skepticism with your questioning strategy, you give your customer ample berth to come to their own conclusions independently and with free will. When you do the opposite by naïvely asking questions that obviously are loaded to the hilt in your favor, it imposes an obligation on your customer that no one feels comfortable dealing with.

Effective questioning must be positioned from a neutral posture. You must suspend all your biases, judgments and expectations if you want to get to the truth. Authentic detachment from your customer and your desire to make the sale, comes from respect, familiarity and honoring your customer's intelligence to find their own answers; not from being coldly removed. When you honor and respect your customer's self-interests you are capable of walking away from opportunities that are not mutually beneficial.

Make sure that your questioning strategy has lots of depth and follow-up questions. Most sales people typically can only sustain one or two follow-up questions on one theme, instead of having the ability to go real deep with any anywhere from 5 to 10 questions on the same line of questioning. "World class consultants have a knack for identifying, then tackling the real question behind the customer's question," says Mahan Khaslsa. This applies to answering and posing 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