While speaking with a client the other day, I mentioned that Sales Concepts had provided sales and customer service training for over forty years. After this, the client said, "Wow, you have seen and worked with many salespeople over the years. What would you say is (as a whole) their biggest weakness?" Upon reflecting on that for about two nanoseconds, the answer was obvious. Salespeople, as a whole, don't ask enough questions! So why don't we ask questions? There are many reasons. Here are a few:
- Bad timing.
- It's none of my business. I don't want to pry.
- The question is too hard to formulate.
- The customer probably does not know the answer.
- Too many questions may annoy the customer.
- I don't want to look stupid.
- Oops, I wasn't listening.
- I just assumed that -
- Lack of preparation.
- The answer might be embarrassing.
- You are in "tell" mode.
- I just plain forgot.
This list continues. Perhaps a more positive approach is needed. Let's take a look at the power of questions. When you ask a series of meaningful, well-thought, well-prepared questions, you come across as someone who cares. Caring is a natural by-product of thorough preparation. Questions can bail you out of a jam. Remember, you can't say something wrong if the customer is talking. Open-ended questions help you prepare for what is coming. Ask questions to justify the value and deal with objections later in the sales process. By the way, asking questions is the best way to overcome objections. You may think you know what your customers are saying, but do you understand what they mean or, more importantly—what they want? There is no better way to uncover opportunities than to ask questions.
Now let's review that list one more time. Bad timing may be a reason to postpone a question, but it’s never a valid excuse not to ask it later. Jot down your questions as you speak with your customers and ask them later. Of course, it's better if you have them prepared in advance. Most of the reasons we don't ask enough questions stem from a lack of preparation or confidence. Oh, and by the way, the best way to gain confidence is to prepare. So, invest the time before your customer encounters. Get prepared. Recognize and test your assumptions. Have your questions prepared in advance, and after your call, you won't pound your forehead saying, "Why didn't I ask about that?"