Here’s how to set up the questionand lower the boom:
In Ray Leone’s insightful book Success Secrets of the Sales Funnel, he discusses questions as part of his sales philosophy. Leone says thequestion is the most important skill a salesperson should master, and I agree. He presents a three-level strategy in setting up and asking the question that could change the way you ask questions from now on.
First stage Make a factual statement that can’t be refuted.
Second stage Make a personal observation that reflects your experience and creates credibility.
Third stage Ask an open-ended question that incorporates the first two stages.
OK, sounds pretty easy. Let’s try it.
Here are three (concise) examples to illustrate this technique:
Let’s say I’m selling sales training.
First stage: “You know, Mr. Jones, sales staffs rarely meet the sales goals and quotas set for them by their boss or manager.” Second stage: “My experience has shown me that when there is a lack of training thereis often poor staff attitude and an absence of goal-setting and goal-achievement skills. Interestingly the staff tends to blame their inability to sell on other things and other people rather than take the responsibility themselves.” (Now, and only now, is it time for you to drop the question.) Third stage: “How are you ensuring that your sales reps meet their goals and maintain a positive attitude?”
Pretty cool, huh? Let’s try another one.
Now I’m selling copiers.
First stage: “You know, Mr. Jones, document processing is an integral part of the operation of any business.” Second stage: “My experience has shown me that many businesses fail to put enough emphasis on the quality and cost control of their documents. They fail to realize that every time a copy is sent to a customer, it reflects the image and quality of their business.” (Now it is time for you to drop the question.) Third stage: “How are you ensuring that the quality of your copies reflects the quality of your business?” As an owner of a business, that question would make me think.
One more. Let’s say I’m an accountant (as far-fetched as that seems).
First stage: “You know, Mr. Jones, most businesses don’t plan long enough in advance for their best tax advantage.” Second stage: “My experience has shown me that entrepreneurs lack the financial expertise to do their own planning, then blame it on a lack of time. That’s what led us to put together this tax planner. It takes about an hour a month, is simple to use and can save you thousands of dollars every year.” (OK, now it’s question time.) Third stage: “How are you planning for your taxes for this year? With your permission, I’d like to review your return from last year and customize your planner for the type of financial situations you face day to day. I’m sure you’re looking to save every tax penny you can and want an accountant who will fight the IRS to keep every dollar allowed you under the law, don’t you?” How the heck can you say no to that? You can’t.
This questioning technique is powerful. It builds credibility and identifies needs at the same time. It works for any business orservice. Don’t take the examples too literally. Learn the concept and adapt it to your business. The object is to compel the prospect to think and respond to you in a different way. So different that it sets you apart from (above) the competition. If you’re going to use this technique successfully, write out the three stages and give it about five practice sessions to work out the kinks, refine your verbiage, and get familiar with the process. After about 25 attempts, you’ll own the technique and begin to see the real rewards.