Admit it. The idea of having to be a salesperson makes you cringe. Why? Because we frequently equate selling with bothering someone. However, sales, when done right, is anything but bothersome to the potential buyer. As a salesperson, my job is simple: I must explain my product or service to the customer in a way that shows him the potential value it will have for him. Before I can do that, I need to ask him good questions to find out which aspects of my product can bring him that value. Here are 6 powerful questions that you and your sales team can ask prospects to immediately win more business for your company.
1. Is there one particular problem that you need to resolve in this area (mention your industry or service here) to make your life better? Every potential client wants to buy something because she thinks it will change her life. As a salesperson, finding out how or what she wants to change is key to offering the right product that will ultimately close the sale. Perhaps she would like to stop missing out on all the great pictures she wants to take of her child--and the phone you sell has 2x the amount of memory her current phone has, and a better camera! No need to talk about internet access, screen size, etc. By simply asking what problem she is facing, you quickly know exactly how to present your product so she will happily buy it--and can make the sale and grow your business in the process. Do you think she will feel you bothered her when she captures great shots of her child thanks to the new phone you sold her? Doubtful.
2. Is there something your current provider is not able to do for you that I might be able to help with? Sometimes, a potential client thinks she already has what she needs. However, the reality is that most people also have a "grass is always greener" outlook on life. If you gently probe to find out if there is something the current provider or product is not able to offer that the customer might wish for, it is likely he will be able to come up with something. My husband, for example, loves to take photos at night, so I bought him a good tripod so he could do so. Just a few months later, while at a camera store, a savvy salesman asked if he was happy with his tripod. His instinct was to say yes, because it was new, lightweight and very stable, but he thought it over and admitted that if it were a little bit taller, it would be even better for his six-foot stature. The salesman easily sold him on a new tripod with a few extra inches of height on the spot. Every time my husband returns from a photo shoot without a sore neck, he definitely does not feel that he was bothered by the salesperson who got him to take home the better tripod.
3. What would make you willing to give our service a try? Customers hesitate when considering a purchase for a lot of reasons, and they don't always articulate what is blocking them from making the buy. Helping them to give voice to the hesitation is the best way to dispense with it. A prospect thinks that your membership-based laundry pick-up service would eliminate his need to schlep his laundry to a drop-off laundromat, but he is not sure if the expense of the yearly membership fee would make signing up worth the time he would save in not dropping his clothes off. If you open the dialogue and find out that his hesitation is related to the cost rather than your actual service proposal, you can then explain that there is only a one-month obligation, so a commitment to buy is really just a commitment to try. He can decide that he will give your service a chance--winning your company the chance to convince him to become a customer for life. When he no longer has to waste time carrying bags of dirty clothes around the block, he won't be wishing you hadn't bothered him.
4. What can I do to make working with our company as easy as possible for you? No one likes change. It is hard, time-consuming, and requires a willingness to experience temporary discomfort in order to make a long-term gain. If you can find out what your potential client fears the most, you can help him understand that the change will be positive and not onerous--important aspects to making a deal. An entrepreneur, for instance, may know that his company needs to change banks because he is not happy with the service he is receiving from his current bank. He may drag his feet, however, because a signing with a new bank means having to export all his wire transfer details, do paperwork to change accounts with his credit card processor, etc. When he meets a banker at a networking event who asks the entrepreneur what would make switching to the bank he represents easy for the entrepreneur, he fesses up to his hesitation. As soon as he hears that the bank in question offers an admin to the new client for a day to help make all those administrative changes, he schedules an appointment to move banks. Feeling bothered never occurs to him when discussing the move with the banker--but relief at finding a painless solution sure does.
5. When will you be ready to order? A sale does not happen in a void--it depends on many things. Is the purchaser financially able to say yes? Is he ready to take delivery of the goods now? Is his decision to buy dependent on the approval of anyone else? All of these factors influence when the buyer will be able to give the green light. Asking the customer outright about his intended purchasing schedule opens the door to speed it up. If a customer inquiring about purchasing a new computer says that he will likely do so when he receives his year-end bonus, and the buying inquiry is being made in October, a salesperson who is aware of the customer's economic constraint can offer a delayed payment plan, or a less expensive model, so the sale can happen now instead of in three months--and in the process he will help his prospect get what he wants today rather than going without for another 90 days. The customer leaves the store satisfied, rather than bothered, by the fact that he can take home his new computer today.
6. What can I do to get more of your business? Just like the Pareto rule states, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. The most powerful question you can ask an existing customer is for an honest assessment of what he would like from you. Does he need you to offer an additional product or service? Does he wish you could supply him more rapidly? Does he need you to call every Monday to check on his stock situation? My best sales rep converted a $1000/month customer into a $5000/month customer merely by asking him if it would be helpful to email him images of our new products each week so he would no longer have to spend time looking at our website to find the new items. Sending him the images cut in half the time it would take him to order, and because he could spend the time on other things, his business flourished, and so did his spend with my company. He certainly did not feel bothered by the fact that my sales rep helped him earn more money in less time.
So before you put off a sale because you are concerned about bothering your prospect, whip out this arsenal of questions, and be blunt.