Salespeople know that one of the keys to their success is to ask great questions. Nobody wants to listen to a salesperson who brags about how great their company is, how great their product is, how great a salesperson they are. We’re being nice when we say these people are full of hot air. What prospects and customers want are answers and to be listened to and to feel heard. What’s more annoying than when someone comes barging into your office unannounced — whether in person, on the phone, or in email — and starts boasting about what it is they sell? People don’t care what you know until they know that you care and take the time to show them you care. This is especially true in selling.
No one’s ever asked me that before.
Most professional sales organizations are about consultative selling. Consultative selling is all about asking questions to elicit customer responses in terms of what the salesperson sells. Note that your questions are always ready, always willing, always set to ask any good prospects. The tone of your questions is one of helping, not one of shoving with the intent to get something out of the conversation. You’re there to see if you and your organization can help, not hurt or otherwise waste time. As Jeffrey Gitomer says, “You become known by the questions you ask.” Further, as he says, “Your goal should be to get the prospect to say, ‘No one’s ever asked me that before.’“
While it should go without saying, actively listening to the prospect’s responses is imperative. The best way to exhibit active listening is to take notes. Do you remember what it felt like the last time you spoke and someone took notes while you were talking? How did it make you feel? If you’re like most people in this situation, you felt important, like what you were saying had weight, that you had authority and expertise someone else wanted so much they took the time to write your remarks down. That’s exactly how you want to make your prospect feel. Note taking is such a small thing, yet so powerful. While it is usually something we do for ourselves, within the sales context, we also do it for others.
What must happen?
Esteemed Executive Coach Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, wrote a book on selling coaching services years ago. In it, he discusses his favorite question to ask prospective clients whenever he feels there is a good fit between the two parties: What must have happened twelve months from now of us working together in order for you to be happy having worked with us? This killer question hits on several points. First, it stretches into the imagination of the prospect and makes him tell you what his precise expectations are for any potential engagement. Second, it helps you elicit her values to really get at what it is she wants and desires. Third, beyond the prospect, you can use this question to strengthen your existing relationships and further build upon the existing meaning between people. Fourth, the prospect can borrow this question and add it to her sales repertoire.
People want the new Lexus because others want the new Lexus. Never underestimate the power of social proof.
After questions are asked and if there appears to be a good fit between the two of you, you may proceed to the offer. Ideally, the prospect has been indoctrinated to you, your company, and to your organization before the meeting even began (see educational marketing for more). This indoctrination gives you social proof — very powerful social proof — you can use in your sales and marketing efforts. (Never underestimate the power of social proof.) Next, you can move onto results in advance.
Results in advance.
It is always good to give the prospect a taste of what it will be like working with you and your company before they have to pay for it. We’re all used to test drives. We like trying before we buy. We enjoy taste tests. We don’t like the anxiety of parting with our money before we are near-guaranteed we’ll like the thing we’re buying. Smart companies offer prospects product or service test drives. This provides the ownership experience before any ownership is real. Like social proof above, the ownership experience should also not be undermined. Feeling like an owner is powerful. It fires off deep emotions, such as pride and belonging and status, all of which your product hopefully produces in others. What do you offer prospects before they buy?
SAAS companies have a tremendous advantage for offering results in advance. They can offer 14- or 30-day free trial offers to firms seeking their web app solution. End users can actually use the product for free and truly get what it’ll be like to “own” it while they integrate it into their workflows. With luck, the end users will be enthralled with the web app, get it conceptually, and wonder how they’ve been living without it. (Yes, that’s wildly ideal.) Car salesmen can not only offer the new Lexus test drive, they can allow the prospect to take the car home with them and keep it overnight. The prospect can garage the new car in their own home without truly owning it yet. Now, that’s an unconscious ownership experience. Don’t you think this prospect wants to brag about “his” car to his neighbors while it is on his property?
What results in advance can you provide people, even if they are only emotional?