Archive for December, 2012

The Importance of Asking Questions

Friday, December 14th, 2012
by Ginny Speaks

Being a sales strategist and coach, I work with sales reps of all levels on a daily basis – reps that are brand new to media and those that have been around for a long time.  I find the most successful reps aren’t necessarily those that have been in the field for years, but those that have the ability to ask great questions. Interestingly, Harvard did a study of the history of “sales scripts” in American business and the first planned presentation the researchers found dates back to 1863. More importantly, they found that the one common denominator in all the scripts was the use of questions.

The sales cycle at all stages should be a series of questions, not a pitch or a broadcasting session about your medium or packages. It should be a fluid conversation that engages the prospect in dialogue by asking great questions and then listening.

Let’s review the series of questions that infiltrates this process.

  • The first series of questions in the presentation or get to know you stage should be all about building rapport and establishing common ground. Once common ground is established, one moves into the second series of questions, the discovery or needs analysis stage. Questions during this stage should be about identifying a need or capturing an assignment by asking questions that bring answers to the following questions: the who, what, when, where and how much. All these questions come prior to any pitch or solution and should be well thought out in advance during the research phase.
  • Once an assignment has been established and a well thought out plan has been put together, we enter the presentation phase of the sales cycle. During this phase, one should be asking questions that determine the interest of the package/program being presented. For example, “Are you with me so far?”, “Do you see the benefit in that?” or one of my favorites, “Does that make sense?” These questions help determine the interest and make your presentation conversational. Again, keep in mind your presentation should not be a pitch or lecture, it should be conversational and this only happens if you ask questions.
  • Once the presentation is coming to completion, we enter the trial close series of questions. For example, “How does it sound so far?” or “On a scale from 1-10, where would you rate this program?” If you get a positive response you move on to the closing questions. If you do not get a positive response, you answer the objection or the question.
  • The last series of questions are the closing questions. These questions should lead the prospect to sign the agreement or at least commit to another meeting. They can be assumptive. For example, “In order to get started, I need to gather some information from you.” Or they can be choice driven, “Would you want a start date this month or the first of next month?” Or they can focus on a deadline or event date, “The event starts 4 weeks from now, I suggest we begin the pre-promotion in two weeks. Do you agree?”

You get the idea. I challenge you to begin seeing your presentations as a series of questions that engage the prospect in dialogue. Do you see the benefit in that?