I had the honor yesterday of participating in a roundtable discussion organized and presented by Focus.com about the use of questions in the sales process. Moderated by Andy Rudin of Outside Technologies, the panel consisted of some outstanding sales minds: Dave Brock of Partners in Excellence, Jack Malcolm of Falcon Performance Group, Dan Waldschmidt of Waldschmidt/Arp, and finally, myself, of course.
Our discussion addressed some of the most fundamental myths and misconceptions sellers have about the use of questions in sales. In fact, we deconstructed the whole idea of questioning as the central aspect of selling.
By all means, all involved agreed that questions are an essential and important aspect of information gathering and rapport building. Questions help open prospects up so we can uncover new information and help get to core issues and concerns. Questions can help focus both ourselves and our prospects to dig deeper and look more closely at what's really going on in a company.
But in the end, questions are only a tool. They aren't the be all and end all of our interaction with prospects and clients.
The problem is that some sellers have walked away from their training on questioning feeling that questions are the secret key to success or that in order to be effective sellers they must be ever conscious of asking the "right" question or the "right" kind of question.
That's simply bull.
Our object with a prospect or client isn't to ask questions, even though as mentioned above, questions are tremendous tools. Our object with prospects and clients has to be to communicate-to connect with them in a meaningful way that helps us understand who they are as well as their problems, needs, and wants.
Communication demands far more than an ability to ask questions. It requires that, as Dan Waldschmidt pointed out, we care-that we care about the prospect, about the issues, about our reasons for doing what we do, about who we are and who we're dealing with.
Communication demands that we connect on both an intellectual and emotional level. Communication demands that we go beyond the gathering of information and actually touch the other person's humanity (as well as our own).
Yes, we did talk about questions and their importance. But in the end, it was about one human connecting with another, not about how to ask the perfect question.
The real question ends up being why are you asking questions? Is it to connect and build a bridge to help solve issues for a fellow human-or to get into someone's wallet? That, sellers, is the first question that must be answered.