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The Power of Questions



Let’s face it. The word “sales” for many people can have a negative connotation. It’s often associated with old-style, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer tactics that involve selling a product or service whether or not it is actually a fit for the customer.

A more effective, though not exactly new, style of selling is called consultative selling. Some call it needs-based selling, strategic selling or spin selling. This method’s success hinges on one simple yet often overlooked fact: There is no basis for a sale until you solve a problem.

With this approach, the sales rep functions as consultant, uncovering the customer’s needs and pains, then adapting the product or service sales pitch to match. It’s about tailoring messages to a prospect’s actual needs – not the needs you assume he has, but the ones he’s actually vocalized.

A more sophisticated selling approach, consultative selling, will accelerate sales. The challenge is to keep quiet and not sell until you really know what the prospect needs and how they want to be sold.

Perhaps the most important component in consultative selling is the needs assessment. This is where you ask a series of well-thought-out, open-ended questions designed to uncover your prospect’s deeper needs and buying motives.

Sounds easy? It’s not. It’s an art form that takes time to master. To succeed, you want to ask precisely the right questions, in the right sequence. Listen intently so you can modify your questioning strategy to suit the situation.

The questions should almost always be open-ended, intended to keep the prospect talking 80 percent of the time – the telltale sign of a good sales call.

Here’s a tip for asking an open-ended question: start with “Talk to me about …” or “Tell me …”
Let’s say you’re selling financial planning services. Your high-impact questions might include:
  • Define for me what a successful financial planner relationship looks like. (The prospect may give you the benefits of your product or service.)
  • Tell me about how often your financial planner meets with you and the value of those meetings. (This might uncover a desire to see more of the planner or for more substance during meetings – yet more ammunition for your pitch.)
  • Tell me what’s worked well with financial planners you’ve used in the past. And what could have been better. (This is a nice, low-key way of getting at the prospect’s pain points with your competitors.)
  • Tell me about your hesitancy in the past to change financial planners.
  • Tell me what it would take for you to give our company a shot at your business. (This is a great wrap-up question. Answered candidly, your prospect has handed you a formula for securing their business.)
Whether you are a sales person or the CEO, mastering the power of questioning will service you well for a lifetime. Not only will you close more business, but you will make your customers feel listened to and respected.

--Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and Founder/CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).
Posted: 12/4/2012 9:27:36 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: b2b, biz, blog, business, chamber, consultant, consultative, ideas, marketing, memphis, problems, questions, sales, savvy, selling, small, solve, to




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SMALL BUSINESS
Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

CONTRIBUTORS
VOSS GRAHAM
Sales & Small Business Ownership
Voss W. Graham is CEO and Senior Business Advisor for InnerActive Consulting Group Inc. He is known by his clients as "a knowledgeable partner who helps our team achieve business growth." He provides practical experience as a small business owner for over 29 years, yet is often engaged with Fortune 500 companies in the development of their people and business strategies.

OBSIDIAN PUBLIC RELATIONS
Public Relations
Several professionals and strategists from the local Obsidian Public Relations firm provide excellent advice on everything from research to media relations to event planning. They believe that all companies, no matter how big or small the company or its budget, should have a public relations plan driving how they manage their relationships with key stakeholders. Public relations is an integral part of doing business the right way.

JOEL MYERS
Human Resources
Joel Myers is a career Human Resources professional, with over 40 years in the field including 26 years in consulting.

TOM PEASE
Small Business Advice
Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He has also owned a full-line Kawasaki dealership as well as a document shop. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books, including: Going Out of Business by Design: Why 70% of Small Businesses Fail and Small Business Survival 101. He also has published 85 columns in The Memphis Daily News as the Small Business Advisor.

LORI TURNER-WILSON
Marketing & Public Relations
Lori Turner-Wilson is CEO and Founder of RedRover Company, a sales development, marketing and PR consulting firm. Lori works with companies large and small, from start-ups to mature organizations, to help them improve the productivity of their sales force and the return on their marketing investment. Lori writes a weekly syndicated column for the Daily News, Memphis News, Nashville Ledger, and Desoto Times, among others, titled “Guerrilla Sales & Marketing,” for which she won a 2011 Summit International Award and 2012 International Communicator Award.

INFERNO
Design and Digital Strategy
Founded in 1999, inferno provides brand development, advertising, public relations, design and digital marketing services to clients across a broad spectrum of industries. Headquartered in Memphis with a satellite office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the award-winning firm produces results-driven work by passionately combining strategic thinking, creativity and culture to ensure the success of its clients. For more information, visit www.creativeinferno.com.

FISHER PHILLIPS LLP
Labor & Employment Law
Fisher Phillips attorneys are ready to help you take a stand: in court, with employees and unions, or with competitors. Fisher Phillips has the experience and resolve to back you up. That's why some of the savviest employers come to the firm to handle their toughest labor and employment cases. The firm has 350 attorneys in 32 offices, including Memphis. For more information, visit www.fisherphillips.com.

PARAGON BANK
Finance
Since its founding in 2005, Paragon Bank has maintained a solid focus on the community and customer service. For more than 10 years, Paragon has delivered innovative products and financial expertise, convenience, and a deep understanding of what both businesses and individuals need from a ban, in order to provide solutions that make a difference. In the areas of business or personal banking, lending options or wealth management, Paragon delivers cutting edge technology, an experienced team and the most service-oriented staff of any community bank.



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