Any sales person worth her salt knows how important questions are. They are critical to our success. Effective questioning gives us great insight into what the customer is trying to achieve, their attitudes, their problems and needs (though I know it is no longer “fashionable” to probe for need.).
Effective questioning gives us the data we need to develop and position our solutions. Once we know what the customer is trying to achieve and what they want, we can prepare our strategies for presenting the solution and winning the business.
But questions are much more important than just giving use the information we need to compete and win. Properly leveraged, the real power of effective questioning is how it helps the customer.
In B2B sales, most of the time the customer may not be really clear about what they want to do, why they want to do it or what they want to achieve. Yes, they may have an notion of what they want to do, why and what they want to achieve, but they may not have formalized their thinking about these areas. Effective questioning forces the customer to think about these issues and crystallize their ideas in these areas.
Effective questioning enables the customer to put unambiguous definition and great clarity around the issues and opportunities they are trying to address. To be able to respond to great questions from the sales person, the customer has to put structure, definition, and priorities around what they are trying to achieve. They can help the customer align the divergent interests on their teams, set clear goals, understand their own biases, and mistaken perceptions. Great questions can help the customer think about how they will make the decision.
Like all of us, customers are busy. They may not have taken the time to sit down to determine what they are trying to achieve or how they will evaluate alternatives. Our questioning forces them to do this.
Effective questions get the customer to think of things differently, to consider other options, to shift their point of view. The whole tone of a sales call changes when the customer says, “I’ve never considered that before,” or “I’ve never thought about that,” or “I didn’t realize that was possible,” or “No one has ever asked me that before.”
Effective questioning can be the ultimate engagement tool.
Are you expanding the power of the questions you ask?
Are you looking at what the customer might learn and how questions help them?
Or, are you so focused on the information you want to get that you are missing this golden opportunity?