February 2, 2010

The Right Questions Can Close More Sales More Often

By Gerhard Gschwandtner

Doctors use questions to diagnose diseases, detectives use them to solve crimes, lawyers use them to defend their clients, teachers use them to educate children, and scientists use them to make new discoveries. Questions are the workhorses of the mind. Without them, mankind’s progress would come to a halt.

In sales, good questions are hard to find. The right questions often represent over half of the solution to a sales stumbling block. The right questions can dramatically impact your earnings.

In selling, they can easily double or triple your income. Skills building guides like The Sales Question Book, pictured here, can dramatically increase your selling edge and will often lead to higher ratios of closed sales to calls made.

In many instances upselling efforts are nonexistent because the salesperson doesn’t know the right questions to ask. In other cases, salespeople fail to ask questions at the right time; they fail to obtain vital information that could lead to a close.

With the help of noted sales psychologist, Dr. Donald J. Moine, Personal Selling Power has collected 5,000 of the best selling questions from the sales superstars of 30 different industries. Every one of these top sales leaders praised sales questions as the number one tool for higher sales. “They help me control the direction of the conversation.” “Questions bring customer needs into clear focus.” “They help me to open up silent prospects.” “You can’t close a sale unless you ask questions!” These were some of their comments when asked about the benefits of using questions in selling.

A great number of top sales producers prepare a dozen key questions prior to every sales call. Many of them keep a record for quick reference of questions that have worked in the past. Here is a sampling of questions we have collected from these sales superstars:

Opening Question:

“People in your position are always looking for new ideas, especially ideas that can save you money. May I show you a way of cutting your operating cost by 15 percent in the next six months?”

Call purpose question:

“Would you mind if I get your answers to a few questions, so that I don’t make the wrong assumptions about your needs?”

Rapport building question:

“Are the children in that picture yours? They are great looking kids! What are their ages?”

Qualifying questions:

“What benefits do you expect as a result of making this purchase?”

“How do you plan on financing this purchase?”

“Who other than yourself will be involved in approving this purchase?”

“What is your timetable for getting this product?”

“What other types of products have you considered that might satisfy your needs?”

Probing for needs:

“If there were an ideal solution to this problem, what would it be?”

What made you decide to give our company an opportunity to serve your needs?”

“I was wondering, how do you measure productivity?”

“Could you give me an example of what you mean by ‘more productive’?”

Feedback question:

“I’d like to get your objective opinion on this particular feature; would you mind sharing your thoughts with me?”

Trial closing question:

“The only question you need to ask yourself is: When do I want to start reducing my operating cost?”

Isolating customer objections:

“Is that the only reason that holds you back from going ahead with the investment?”

Uncovering reasons behind objections:

“What are some of the reasons for and against buying now?”

Answering objections with questions:

“What is more important to you; to save a few hundred dollars now on a lower price, or to save a few thousand dollars over the lifetime of this high-quality product?”

Closing questions:

“If I can show you a way of financing this purchase without any negative effects on your cash flow, do we have a deal?”

“What would make you happier, the extended warranty or the service contract?”

“Now that this important concern has been addressed to your satisfaction, would you please OK the shipping instructions?”

Upselling question:

“If you could choose another item from this catalog, which one would you pick?”

Referral question:

“I am sure that a successful person like you has many friends; how many of them do you feel could benefit from owning such a product?”

Follow-up question:

“Would you be able to tell me in which way the new product has helped you reduce operating costs?”

Questioning Strategies

Knowing how and when to ask your sales questions are the most important elements of your questioning strategy. Research has shown that your selling questions will get better responses by following these simple strategies:

1. Mix open questions with closed questions. (An open question is the one that can’t be answered with yes or no.)

2. Mix rapport building questions with business questions.

3. Allow for appropriate pauses before moving on to your next question. Pauses will help your customer to think and you will get more complete responses.

4. Always be polite. Give your reasons for asking questions, ask for permission to ask questions up front and, if necessary, preface your questions with: “Can we discuss…Could you clarify…May I have your opinion on”…etc.

5. Maintain a confident attitude. The quality of your attitude will influence the quality of the customer response.

6. It is always better to ask the same question twice than to ask two questions at once.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Every question you ask during a sales call makes a statement about you as a professional. Your questions will reveal how you think, they will give an indication as to your goals and will show how much you care about your customer as a professional and as an individual. Only ask questions that reflect highly on you and your company and that advance you successfully to the close. Before each call review your questions and determine the impact of your questions. If necessary, role play some of the questions with a friend or colleague.

Remember that your questions are the measure of your professionalism. The quality of your questions will ultimately determine the quality of your sales career.