A good place to start with any potential sales prospect is to assume that he or she is a smart person.
If they have the right information in the right context, you should assume that they will make a good decision. Unfortunately, getting them the right information in the right context is where most sales efforts fall apart.
Think about it from the potential sales prospect's point of view. Throughout their day, they are overwhelmed with so much information to sort through and so many conflicting opinions to consider. As they try to figure out the best choice to make, there is the very real likelihood that some of the information they received is inaccurate, outdated, or just plain sketchy.
As a salesperson, the most important thing you can do is to help your prospective client determine his or her specific needs. With that in mind, here are a few conversation starters you can use to help the prospect figure out exactly what they are looking for.
1. Open-ended questions: Having a series of five-to-ten open-ended questions ready to go is a great way to help the prospect make their own discoveries. Examples include:
- "How would you know in 30 days that you had made the right selection?"
- "What are the issues you are trying to resolve in your current operation or with your current provider?"
- "How has your business changed in the last 6 months that is impacting your needs in this area?
2. Preference-scoring questions: These questions are a great way to help the prospect set their priorities when dealing with complex situations.They are typically structured like such: "On a 1-to-5 scale, 5 being most important, please rate the following qualities that you are searching for in this product/service/solution."
3. Trade-off questions: Most people have heard the old line in sales, "Speed, quality or price--you can have any two." The basic idea is that there are trade-offs between qualities. For prospects who "want it all" but either can't have it because it doesn't exist or they can't afford it, this helps to establish the specifics of what what a final solution has to have to be desirable.
4. Self-scored test: Sometimes, you can combine several of these approaches into a test that someone can take on-line or in a discussion. This approach offers a deeper dive into the real issues that they are considering changing or the larger goals they are trying to achieve. We use this in our own business and you can see an example here. This clarifies areas of concern and gives a better sense of the potential order of implementation for a multi-phase solution.
Using these tools leaves you and the prospect in a better position to mutually select the most viable alternative of your offerings for them to purchase. By asking them these questions, it lets them arrive at the decision themselves, giving them confidence that the information is accurate and that the solution is a good fit for their problem.