You know, questions are seen by many as the only tools used by salesmen. We ask questions: to establish need; to gauge readiness and willingness to buy; to establish the clients understanding of our proposal, and ultimately; we ask for their purchase instruction. If we’ve done it right – more right than the competition – then, in theory, we win.
The problem is that questions aren’t always the answer (pun intended). Sometimes our seemingly innocent and (we believe) relevant questions can offend. Sometimes customers don’t want to admit to their true current state. Continuing to drill down on any reticence the client displays merely compounds their discomfort.
This blog entry’s title “The 1st quarter is over – how are you traveling?” would likely be well received by those of you who are on, or ahead, of plan – doubtless you would answer and expand on just how far ahead of target you are and how much you are looking forward to the next quarter. However, those who were behind plan might well be uncomfortable with such a question.
Similarly, when you ask probing questions of a customer, look for the signs. If they happily answer then that’s great – if they hesitate, squirm, re-direct, or just look in any way uncomfortable, then back-off. Don’t merely rephrase the question but move onto something where you feel they will be more comfortable to open up. It may be that you don’t really need to know their current state in detail – and both you and the client might much more enjoy talking about the future state the client envisages (and which you might help to flesh-out). Perhaps rather than a question it might be more appropriate to make an observation, or propose a vision, or tell a story?