Setting up the question…and lowering the boom
Ray Leone gave a seminar in Charlotte last week. For the fortunate 100 or so in the audience, they (and I) got a masterful lesson in the science of asking questions. Leone’s insightful book, Success Secrets of the Sales Funnel, will be reviewed in the near future.
Leone says the question is the most important skill a salesperson should master and I agree. He presented 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 staff 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, there is often poor staff attitude and an absence of goal setting and achieving 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 your business. (Now is it 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 may seem.)
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 and 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. (O.K. it’s now 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 to 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 or service. 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.
The question is the most important skill a salesperson should master…
And setting up the question is as important as asking it.
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