1. What do you want?
2. Why do you want it?
3. Who makes the decision?
4. How do we make this happen?
5. When do you want it delivered?
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? While it may not be as cut and dry as this, even in the most complex sales, if you have the answers to these questions, you are better prepared to close a sale. The problem comes in when we either forget or are afraid to ask the questions and that happens all the time.
I recently worked with an internet-based telephone sales department. The company had invested a lot of money and time in a marketing campaign. The owner was very pleased with the number of people responding to the advertising but disappointed in the closing ratio of his team.
The team was young and enthusiastic, very technically oriented and loved their product line. None of them had previous sales experience. As we worked together they would tell me about their interactions with their callers. I was very impressed with the fact that they thoroughly understood the features of their products. They even had great closing questions. The problem came when I would ask them, “Why did the person call in?” More often than not, the answer was, “I don’t know. I assume…” Assuming is not good! Great sales communication is the key.
If we don’t know why someone is interested in what have to offer, how can we sell to their needs?
“Does it come in purple?”
The best lesson I had in this was when I was selling IBM Selectric® typewriters. (Yes, typewriters!) I was dealing with a purchasing agent. This particular purchasing agent only cared about meeting a price and satisfying his boss. As price wasn’t an issue, I asked what we needed to do to move this forward. He says, “Does it come in purple?” Stunned by the question, out of pure curiosity, I asked, “Do you need it in purple?” Totally expecting this to be a joke, he says, “Yes. The company’s logo is in purple. The owner’s wife would like purple typewriters.” The Selectric came in many colors. Purple was not a standard color. However, I knew it could be spray painted. I said, “Yes. They can come in purple.” That was it. That was all he needed. I got the order.
If it was always that easy!
Granted, not all sales are that easy. In fact, most of them aren’t. But aren’t you tired of getting to the closing question only to find out the person you’re talking to can’t make the buying decision? Or doesn’t plan on buying for a year? Or can’t afford you? Or is just looking for information? Or, the worst of them all, didn’t buy because you didn’t ask them to?
As sales people, we are professional solutions people. You can’t come up with a solution until you know the problem. You can’t know the problem unless you ask. Asking questions not only proves your professionalism, it helps solidify your relationship with your client because they feel you care and understand.
Practice asking questions. Not sure how to do that? Spend some time with a preschooler!
Here’s to your sales success!