As a sales rep, it’s in your interest to accelerate the sales process. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the likelihood of a prospect becoming a customer decreases the more time they spend in the sales pipeline. Secondly, a quicker close results in a lower cost per sale and greater profits.
But how can questions speed this process up?
In reality it’s not just the questions that speed up the process – it’s the resulting dialogue that is powerful stuff. As you have heard, conversation is crucial to the sales process. That’s because only when you really get talking (and actively listening) with a customer, can you gain the insights needed to convince a prospect that they need your solution above all others. So what are the best questions to ask? Here are three ways to position yourself as a trusted advisor in the customer’s decision-making process (as opposed to an annoying salesperson who won’t let up!)
Identify the key problem
As a starting point, you must identify the key issue that the customer needs to resolve. Feature-based selling is no longer as effective. That’s because a customer really doesn’t care how many gadgets and gizmos your product or service has. What they really want to know is how you can resolve a need they have. This means that your first job is to find out what the “itch” is, so that you can position your solution to show why it’s relevant and worth a closer look. Customers want to know what’s in it for them. So start by asking the in-depth questions needed to understand their issues, show that you’ve heard and understand those issues, and then position your conversation specifically to demonstrate how you can help address them. Do this, and not only will you build rapport, you’ll start to establish credibility and trust.
Understand your customer’s objectives
Due to the huge amount of information that’s available online, customers are able to self-educate to a certain extent when making a decision to buy. As a result, when talking with a prospect you need to be aware that they’ve more than likely done their research – there’s even a risk that they may actually know more than you! What this means is that you’ll need to be able to demonstrate HOW your product or service fits strategically into the prospect’s business objectives – especially if what you’re offering is a high-ticket item, or a complex purchase that will have far-reaching implications for the organization. That’s why smart sales reps dig to determine the bigger picture and the strategic goals that the customer is looking to deliver.
Once you know these insights, you can customize your pitch and your dialogue to demonstrate how your business can help. To do this well, you’ll need a knowledge base that’s broader than just your product/service. That’s because to help your customer make a decision, you’ll need to show that you understand the wider implications of them investing in your solution, as well as showing a detailed knowledge of what else is available (and why your product/service is a better fit). Again, this wider perspective also helps to develop trust and position you as a trusted advisor.
Here’s an example of how a sales call can turn into something of true value for the prospect. What if you sold software that would normally be used throughout the company — from customer service to marketing to sales. During the sales call, it becomes clear to you as you delve into their strategy (and ask questions) that the group you are meeting with is comprised entirely of C-suite executives who are planning to make a purchasing decision without the participation of any of the stakeholders from the various departments who will actually be using the software.
This is an opportunity for you to alert them to the danger of making a decision without gathering opinions from representatives of those departments. Tell them how assuming software will meet the needs of all departments is a risky proposition which may have an expensive downside if employees refuse to adopt the solution, and feel excluded from the qualification process.
At that point, you are positioned as a genuinely helpful resource. An offer here to lay out a less risky buying process could give you the opportunity to continue to build trust and lead the prospect deeper into your brand and your company’s value to them.
Discover what’s really important
Finally, note your prospect’s priorities. What’s really important to them personally and strategically? Once you understand this, you can get on the same page. For example, it’s no good talking about how your product/service can cut costs if your customer is really interested in the quality angle. When you really understand, in detail, what your customer wants, needs and how the purchase fits into the bigger picture, you no longer have to sit with a generic pitch. Instead, you can personalize your presentation to pick out and highlight the benefits that specifically relate to your customer. When you’re seen as relevant, you’re more likely to get their full attention. You’re also more likely to find out exactly what’s stopping your customer from making a decision. As you’d expect, these insights are seriously valuable — rocket fuel – because you can tailor your replies to help your customer move beyond the block, and nudge them further down your sales pipeline. In turn, your pipeline velocity increases, you close more sales, and you build much stronger relationships with your customers.
Questions help to accelerate the sales process by initiating a trusted dialogue with a customer. By asking the right questions and uncovering the detailed insights that lie below the surface, you can build rapport and trust. In turn, the customer will be more willing to engage with you and reveal (and discuss) what’s stopping them from buying. As a result, you can answer the objections, and progress through the sales pipeline quickly.
What do you think?
What category of questions do you think is critical to the success of your sales process? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
- Step by Step: Creating a Solid Selling Process
- 7 Questions to Ask Prospects During the Sales Process
- For the Sales Force, It’s the Age of Trust