How will you get your sales customers to increase sales in 2009? The answer is for them to ask the right sales questions.
The pressure is on for increasing customer sales in the new year. Plus, how will you and your company make up for the sales accounts you lost in 2008? “By making our sales customers happy and keeping them happy,” you say. Sure, but where will you start?
Maybe you think the way to keep your sales customers happy is by avoiding ruffling their feathers with tough, uncomfortable sales questions. Think again! Your sales customers can’t solve their problems if they don’t acknowledge them. Or maybe they’ve had too many fires to put out this year. As a result, they’ve had little if any time to constructively think through their challenges and what steps need to be taken to achieve next year’s goals. And that’s where you come in, by helping them to see the bigger picture.
You can use the business version of “tough love,” in the form of probing sales questions that’ll help your sales customers recognize problems. And you’ll create some urgency so they’re more likely to take action. Best of all, because you dare to ask the sales questions that are critical to their success in 2009, you’ve positioned yourself as part of the solution.
You know these tough sales questions are important, but maybe you’ve been holding back from asking them because they can:
- Be imposing.
- Be intrusive.
- Be uncomfortable.
- Take away your selling time.
You may even be a little afraid to hear your sales customer’s answers. What if she says she hasn’t exactly been elated with your work on her behalf, and she’s already shopping around among your competitors? Don’t let this possibility intimidate you! If those issues or anything else are a thorn in your sales customer’s side, you need to hear it from her and remove that thorn before it tears a gaping wound — perhaps a fatal one — into your business relationship. Instead of fearing negative answers, embrace them as tools that can help you give your sales customer the intensive care her business requires — and put money in your pocket instead of your rival’s.
BUILDING UP TO ASKING PROBING SALES QUESTIONS
Asking probing sales questions can be the BUILDING blocks to providing your sales customers with the best solutions to their problems, because these sales questions will help you to:
- Build rapport with your sales customers.
- Understand your sales customers’ needs.
- Illuminate your sales customers’ hidden needs and wants.
- Look for information from your sales customers.
- Direct the conversation with your sales customer.
- Increase your sales customer’s comfort zone.
- Name your sales customers’ fears to help conquer them.
- Galvanize sales customers’ emotions so they’ll take action, with your help.
Honey attracts more flies than vinegar, so start off your questioning by capitalizing on what’s going right with your sales customers, then ease into problem areas. When you and your sales customer begin this discussion, it’s important to concentrate on “you” — that is, your sales customer — before going into what “we” — you and your sales customer — can do as a team. The key is to make sure your sales customer realizes she has ownership in this process, while validating your own role in your sales customer’s success.
ASKING THE TOP PROBING SALES QUESTIONS
Note that the following sales questions get more complex as you go along.
- What are your goals for next year compared with this year?
- In what ways are you going to capitalize on this year’s success to ensure even greater success next year?
- With 2009 around the corner, what do you think you’ll do more of/less of/just plain differently?
- In what ways can we ensure/change/do more of _____________ to ensure your continuing success?
- What is it that you value most about doing business with us (me)?
- What do you feel we are (I am) doing right to sustain our business relationship?
- In what ways are we (am I) helping you to achieve your goals?
- In what ways can we (I) improve?
- What changes do we (I) need to make to ensure greater success?
- If you could change one thing about our relationship, what would it be?
- What goals would you like to see us (me) accomplish with you in the next 12 months?
- How can we (I) make your job easier?
- Would you be willing to serve as a reference for my product or company? If so, can you elaborate on what you would say about us? If not, why not?
- What will it take on our (my) part to win that portion of the business you are currently giving to our competition?
Be sensitive to your sales customer’s concerns and issues; keep your antennae up for the potential speed bumps and barriers ahead. The time to address those small potential issues is now, before they magnify into overwhelming problems.
ESTABLISH INSTANT RAPPORT SO YOU’LL ASK THE RIGHT SALES QUESTIONS
Your prospective sales customer has one of these four concerns on her mind:
- How are you going to minimize my fears?
- How are you going to enhance my standing in my organization?
- How are you going to save me money? Or make me money?
- How are you going to make my life easier?
Asking these tough sales questions will get your sales customers to start divulging critical info that they never shared before, because you probably never asked. You can only position yourself and your product as better solutions to your sales customer’s problems when you understand her true needs and desires. Digging into the dirt with tough but crucial sales questions is the best way to unearth the answers that will help you help your sales customer solve her problems, and lead to increased sales and a happy, profitable 2009.