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Stop asking stupid questions!

Hopefully every sales rep has moved beyond the show up and throw up of pitching. You know what that looks like, a rep dials/walks into a customer meeting, shows three-four slides about your business then starts telling the customer how good their product or service is.

If you are still doing that STOP! The customer doesn’t care, how big your company is, whether you are used by a competitor or even if it is the best in breed. They just want to know whether you can solve their problem.

How do you do that? You need to ask the questions that are going to help you understand whether they have a problem and whether you can solve it.

Walking into a meeting and just blasting away can be a bad move too, you need permission to ask the questions. You can get permission in a couple of ways. Firstly, ask them for it. You would be amazed about how many people are willing to answer questions in the right way. Check out this post for some tips on asking questions. Secondly, provide them with some insights/value that means that makes them feel like they are part of an open dialogue that is going to get them to their desired place.

Once you have asked your questions and delivered your insights remember to ask your questions sparingly. Think of your prospects good-will to answer questions as water in a well. Every answer they provide is drawing water out of the well. If you waste one question you may not be able to ask another question until the water levels are replenished. How can you top up water levels? By providing them value and insights, which gives them confidence that you are an expert in the industry and that answering your questions will get them closer to their goal.

So what types of questions do you want to ask, avoid and use sparingly? Typically I hear four types of questions used by a rep in a sales meeting;

1.   Stupid questions

Obviously we want to avoid these although we hear them all to regularly. Most stupid questions stem from a lack of research, preparation and empathy for the customers role and situation. My top three most hated stupid question are;

  1. “can you tell me about your top 3 strategic priorities this year?” quickly followed by
  2. “can you tell me a little about your business”
  3. “What do you guys do over there?”

2.   Personal questions 

These are important to be able to build rapport with your prospect and and are based on the research you have completed. Maybe;

  • congratulate them on a recent customer win they publicised,
  • or ask them about the local restaurants near their new office in the city.

Be mindful of where you are getting the information and whether it is stepping the personal divide. You may not want to ask how the family holiday to Moorea was if you learned about it while stalking their Facebook profile.

3.   Selfless questions

This is where you need to be spending your time! These questions demonstrate genuine empathy and a willingness to learn more about the prospect or customer. These should take up the majority of your time early in the sales cycle as this is where you are going to learn most about your client

  • “What made you search for our solutions today?”
  • “Thanks for downloading our whitepaper, what is your interest in this widget?”
  • “How long have you been looking for a solution like this?”

4.    Selfish questions

Once you have figured out that you can solve their problem now it is time to focus on whether they are going to be a good partner for your business;

  • “Do you have budget available to spend on our solution?”
  • “Where does this sit in your priorities?”
  • “What is trade off you would need to make to select a solution like ours?”

The amount of questions you can ask are in limited supply before your prospect feels like they are sitting at the interrogation table so ensure that you aren’t bombarding them with question under strong lamps!

In summary there are four steps you can follow to use your curiosity to create genuine connections with your customers;

  1. Create rapport with personal questions,
  2. Build relationships with your selfless questions and providing insights
  3. Be sure it is going to be a mutually beneficial relationship with the selfish questions.
  4. STOP asking stupid questions!

Happy Selling!

Not sure if you are asking enough selfless questions? Maybe you have a couple of reps asking silly questions? Send us an email to set up a conversation to see whether or not we can help you.

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