It is fact that many, many salespeople don’t ask the right kinds of questions when in front of a prospect. I’ll add that most salespeople don’t have the right questions prepared before they enter the call. Maybe I’m being picky but it makes no sense to call for an appointment, travel to the account, spend time on the sales call, travel back to the office and then wonder if you had done all you could on the sales call.
Let’s assume for a second that you are making a call on a company that extrudes heart catheters. You’re meeting with the head of production. You know that the company has to dry their catheters as the next to last step in the process. You’re now in the meeting and after some inane questions about the weather and the Vikings you start to ask these questions. There is a right way to ask questions and a marginal way. Here are a few examples of marginal questions:
- Are you satisfied with your manufacturing process?
- How long does it take to dry a batch of catheters?
- Would you be interested in a faster way to dry catheters?
- How much does it cost to dry a batch of catheters?
These are not necessarily catastrophically bad questions but the prospect does not have to give you much information other than yes/no, time, yes/no, and a dollar amount to the above questions. You might get lucky and have a wildly expressive prospect who can’t wait to talk but they are far and few between. Why risk burying yourself in the conversational corner.
Ask questions that:
- Will give you key information relative to production.
- Could highlight specific problems.
- Relate to features of your product that might be better than what the prospect now uses.
- Will allow you to listen rather than talk.
In the old PSS selling program these questions were referred to as open-ended questions and there really is no better phrase for it. These questions don’t have to be tricky or manipulative. All they need to do is open up the dialogue so you have a professional way to extract information about the prospect’s needs.
You’re probably thinking that everyone does this. Wrong! I’ve been in four selling situations within the last month, two as a buyer and two as a sales manager riding with a client for the first time. In all four situations the salespeople asked questions that resulted in a yes/no response from the prospect. The silence after those short answers is almost deafening.
The Final Thought: “To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered” John Ruskin