It’s Not About You: How to Ask The Right Questions

Asking questions when pitching an idea to clients shouldn’t be thought of as a secret weapon - because it’s one of the most valuable assets for salespeople. So it must be common sense, right? Wrong!

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So here’s a challenge: Ask your prospect questions about themselves, and just do that.  Chances are your competitors aren’t doing that and you will see a difference.  But it’s going to be hard for you not to jump in with your own stories or information about your product.

Start off with questions that build rapport.  Get the prospect talking about themselves - people love talking about themselves. Shine the light on them and let them give you a need that you never thought was there.

Here's a great example.

One of my jobs out of college was in Marketing. I once had someone sell me without saying what their company did beyond the name. His name was Joe and he introduced himself as a salesperson for “X” software company. He never said one word about why they were the #1 “blah, blah, blah” in their industry. Or how they sold over $9 million memberships last year.

He just asked questions the entire time in a stealthy manner of budget, authority, need, time (B.A.N.T.). He asked what the company I worked for spent on advertising last year (Budget). I said I didn’t know but I’d probably be able to look. He then asked what I did in that department, and what I liked most about the job (Authority). Then he asked if I could share a little bit about what the company did. He asked about our customer base. I told him we dealt mainly with e-commerce and sold “X” products to “Y” customers from all over the world. In talking about the company, I hinted at how targeting the right buyers quickly was hit and miss sometimes. How we had a cool promotion one month and a goose egg promotion the next (Need). Then I went on about how the holidays were still five months away, but we like to get a head start on planning so the department isn’t running ragged from procrastination (Time)

The whole thing took probably 20 minutes.  The best part, was that it didn’t FEEL like a sales call.  Just a conversation with a nice guy.

Then he put his company’s software to work to show me exactly where the company was missing out. It was a simple PDF showing red areas (bad) and green areas (good). How we were throwing away money at “X” and should devote more time to “Y.” He knew he found a hook and just had to move toward talking about his company just an inch, not a mile.

Curiosity from a prospect will be the driving force if the questions and attention make them feel at ease. That curiosity soon manifested into a deal with Joe’s company that helped move more product online in, during and after the holiday season. And if I had to guess what the word count totals were between Joe and I, I’d say it was something like, 200 to 20,000, with myself as the unanimous winner.

All because the questions asked were not only the right ones, but they were continually about me, the client, and not about them.

Learn more tips on asking the right questions with our series, Territory Development.

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