There is a trend in sales that in order to be successful you need to ask great questions; you should discover the buyers pain point and then sell them the cure. That advice is fantastic in theory, which is all it is. Would you disclose to a close friend your inner most problems, probably, but what about a friend who’s not so close, or what about that so called friend who says they are a great listener but you know from proven experience that the minute you leave they will be spreading your inner most secret and problem?
Before asking too many questions a salesperson needs to understand which of the four buying personas: Assertive, Amiable, Expressive, Analytic does the buyer fit into. Asking an Assertive or Analytic person too many questions that are neither science or financially driven will turn them off straightaway. Discover more about the four buying personas and how to sell to them in our blog.
STEPHENS TIP: Place the buyers persona into your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Should a colleague need to follow-up with the customer it gives them a valuable insight into who they will be speaking with.
I have had the misfortune of sitting in front of a sales manager who had at least 25-30 years’ experience and them say, one of my Unique Selling Points (USP) is I know everything that’s going on in the industry and then proceeded to tell me about a company that was really struggling, that was in deep debt and was pouring everything into marketing to try and win sales. This is a true story, and my feelings for the person today are as strong as they were back then, I would not tell them anything.
Regardless if you are selling to a new prospect or an existing client the right to ask questions is earned. You must add value first to the prospect / customer, you must demonstrate that you are trustworthy and that you know the industry and your product or service.
To get to ask great questions I suggest researching the prospect / customer being the starting point. A few minutes work on social media or an online search can reveal some great insights. “I see you have just acquired XYZ company”, that’s fantastic things must be going well, will all distribution be still split or consolidated to one site? A salesperson can then go on to talk about increases in production, what core products do they hope to produce, any shortages in the supply chain.
When a salesperson asks questions, it should not be an interrogation but a natural conversation flow. Professional buyers will end a meeting erupt if they feel they are being cross examined or their values are being challenges. A person’s values are extremely important, it cannot be over emphasised enough, asking someone, their biggest problem could be insulting.
Questions should be carefully thought out and not just asked for the sake of asking them, they should lead from one question to the other and allow the prospect or customer to come back and ask the salesperson about a feature, benefit or upgrade on their solution.
Remember that while you want to find out the customers problems so that you can help solve them, sometimes you won’t have the answers. Be professional to say you don’t know, but take a note and state you will find an answer and come back to them, and if you say those words make sure you do go back to them.