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Asking the Right Questions and Finding Qualified Customers

By Bob 'Idea Man' Hooey |

In sales, getting the correct answer - 'YES!' can be a simple process of knowing what questions to ask. The better you draw out your prospects and discover their needs and wants, the better chance you have of setting up a relationship that becomes a series of yes's and results in ongoing business. Taking the time to dig is the foundation of the true sales professional who is looking at each prospect in terms of total live time value, not just a one-time sale.

Questioning or probing skills

  • Probing is defined in the dictionary as use of a probe (an instrument) to penetrate, usually for the purpose of measuring and investigating.
  • As an action verb, to probe means to interview, to ask questions and listen, to observe, to study, etc

Probing allows you to accomplish some very important things:

  • It enables you to discover what the prospect wants and the conditions under which they will buy what you are selling.
  • It keeps you from wasting too much time on prospects who will not, or cannot buy what you are selling under any conditions.
  • It enables you to discover needs you can profitably meet and suggest ways to meet them to the prospect.
  • It enables prospects to identify, clarify and express their wants and needs.

It is important to understand the difference between your customers wants and needs. Often, Wants are the impulse that incite their Needs.

Customer needs generally share these characteristics:

  • Rational - they are rational and it makes sense to satisfy them as they relate to the customer's career, living conditions, health, financial success, appearance or which ever issue your product addresses.
  • Surface - they exist as a top of mind or surface image for your customers. They are aware of them and can discuss them openly with you.
  • Fact-oriented - Needs are a matter of fact. They are based in 'reality', not in theory or conjecture. An intelligent analysis of the customer's situation will unearth them for discussion.

Customer wants are very different than customer needs:

  • Emotional - Wants are personal and emotional. They are independent of your product and service. Customers carry them around like baggage.
  • Below the surface - Customers don't often reveal their wants easily. As a professional sales person you have to dig below the surface to find them.
  • Perception-oriented - Rather than being fact oriented (like needs), Wants are tied into a customer's perception. As professional sales people we need to tap into our customer's wants and create an emotional bond that helps make the sale. Visit the 51 reasons people buy to add to your tool kit.

Finding Qualified Buyers
Qualified buyers have an immediate need for your product or service, have the authority to make the purchase, and will be receptive to buying it from you.

Customer-Focusessed Questions
Here are some questions to add to your professional sales tool kit for the various situations in which you will operate with your customers.

Information gathering
What prompted you or your company to look into this ____________?
What are your expectations/ requirements for this product/ service?
What process did you go through to determine your needs?
How do you see this happening?
What is it that you'd like to see accomplished?
With whom have you had success in the past?
With whom have you had difficulties in the past?
Can you help me understand that a little better?
What does that mean?
How does that process work now?
What challenges does that process create?
What challenges has that created in the past?
What are the best things about that process?
What other items should we discuss?

What do you see as the next action steps?
What is your timeline for implementing/ purchasing this type of service/ product?
What other data points should we know before moving forward?
What budget has been established for this?
What are your thoughts?
Who else is involved in this decision?
What could make this no longer a priority?
What's changed since we last talked?
What additional concerns do you have?

Establishing rapport, trust & credibility
How did you get involved in ________________?
What kind of challenges are you facing?
What's the most important priority to you with this ____________? Why?
What other issues are important to you?
What would you like to see improved?
How do you measure that?

The secret to qualifying buyers is to find out what they want most, then give them what they want. You need to discover what they will buy, why they will buy, when they will buy, and under what conditions they will take that action.

Most 'inexperienced' sales people make the 'fatal' mistake of focusing on what 'they' want from the prospect. It is what the customer wants that fuels the sale.

Taking a customer centred, value-added approach enhanced by active listening skills and skill use of questions to draw out information will be your key to long-term success and generating repeat buyers.

Good selling!

Canadian, Eh!

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