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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

The 5 Crucial Sales Questions You're Afraid to Ask

The five questions you're afraid to ask a buyer are actually the key to increasing sales and ramping up efficiency. Hey, no one ever said sales was easy.
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If you want to increase your sales conversion rate dramatically, stop selling to people who can’t or won’t buy. Ok, sounds simple, but the next logical question is “How do I know whether a qualified prospect, who should buy from us, fits into the category of can’t or won’t buy?”

The first step in increasing your conversion rate is to have the courage to ask the questions that will give you the answers you need to know. Too often sales people don’t ask questions when they are afraid of the answers. Those answers may eliminate that prospect from their list, confirming that they are wasting their time.

Here are the questions you need to be asking a potential buyer:

1. In terms of time, money, and risk, what business problem will working with us solve for you?
This answer will tell you whether the prospect has a real issue they are willing to pay to resolve or if they’re just curious. Companies tire-kick in the market for alternative vendors all the time. Sometimes their rules require them to do this, other times they are keeping their incumbent vendor “honest” on price and features and there is always the desire to stay current. Regardless, if there is not a sizable business problem that they are looking to solve, your prospect is just curious, not really interested. No interest, no engagement, no money.

2. How will you measure our success together 60 days after we start work?
Success measures, specific measures are a great determinant of sincerity and seriousness in the consideration process of a buyer. The reason that we limit our review period to 60 days is because we want to determine urgency and clarity. If you get urgency and clarity at the right level, you are talking to someone who is going to make a decision faster.

3. How much better does our “better” have to be for you to work with us?
I love threshold questions. Thresholds set a defined bar as to how good something has to be for there to be action taken. You can first find out if there is such a bar determined to assess sincerity of interest, then you can decide if you can make that bar. Both answers can keep you from wasting your time.

4. How soon does this problem need to show improvement for you to feel that our work together is successful?
Another type of threshold question, this focuses on urgency and one of the leverage points that smaller companies have- speed. If your client can see success way out in the future as being their goal, chances are that anyone can be their partner. When that is the case, you have lost an important advantage and your bigger branded competitors are the more likely winners.

5. What process will you follow in bringing us on as your provider?
Process questions let you know how far out your prospect has thought through bringing on a replacement solution provider. If they have no answer to this question, then you are probably talking to the wrong level of person, or they are not seriously considering a big change.

As a part of this process of asking better questions to increase all aspects of your sales performance, I encourage you to check out my article, 3 Ways to Get Better Information From Sales Prospects.

Getting a higher conversion rate is about pitching fewer losers so you have more time for the winners- pick the high potential winners earlier by not leaving it to chance. Ask the hard questions and let the hard facts guide your path.

IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Dec 5, 2011

TOM SEARCY | Columnist | Founder, Hunt Big Sales

Author, speaker, and consultant Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he has helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Searcy's weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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