Asking questions is fundamental to your sales process. That's become an accepted fact in sales training over recent years. Long gone are the days when trainers coached sales people in only asking questions the prospect would respond to with a Yes, thankfully.
There's a couple of articles in Customer Collective which suggest the role of questions is establishing a conversation with the buyer. Dave Brock tells us It's Not About The Questions, It's About The Conversation and Paul McCord writes about Questioning the Value of Questions in the Sales Process. Both report on the same discussion, with their own perspective on the subject. And of course they're both absolutely right, but there's another perspective we can add to the discourse.
Only a couple of weeks ago Bob Apollo asked Is Your Organisation Paying the Penalty for Poor Sales Qualification. His contribution explains why sales people need to look for the reasons why prospects are in buying mode. Knowing why an organisation is buying - the business imperative - is critical to both a decision to bid and the strategy for the sale. Of course, we agree.
This is where the two streams of thought come together. One says we need to create a conversation with the objective of engaging the client. The other suggests we need to create the conversation to find out why the customer will buy, something.
Our contribution to the topic is we need to ask questions to find out How the customer will buy.
Dave and Paul rightly explain this interaction is about turning You and We into Us. Bob explains there's a basic dimension of Why.
And our addition is sales people need to find out the How.
- Is there a budget?
- Who makes the final decision?
- When will the selection of a vendor be made?
- Who will be considered for that selection and why would you buy from them?
- How will that selection be made?
- What do we need to do to get the decision in our favour?
This is a completely different set of questions which achieve 3 objectives.
- We agree with the prospect a joint Buy/Sell process.
- We can decide whether we are in to win it, or keep somebody else honest.
- We can work out how we are going to win it - our sales strategy and our sales plan.
Sales people who ask questions create a new level of relationship with the prospect. They can decide whether to bid, or walk away. And if they decide to engage they'll be able to plan how they'll win. We describe this as Sales Probability Process Management.
On it's own conversation won't guarantee the sale. Knowing why won't either. But engaging in a conversation about why and how sets the foundations for a win for both buyers and vendors.