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Good Questions Leave Customers More Curious

Questions are best delivered with a certain level of equilibrium, detachment and neutrality. There is little room for positive animation, because your questions will be very problem-centered. Question should be spontaneous and unedited to minimize predictable answers. Remember, when you ask stock questions, you invariably will get stock answers that lead to dead ends.

Be careful with what you wish for. Some questions can be too forceful and effective in that they trigger negative emotions and it backfires, resulting in loss of credibility and trust. So always tread lightly with your thought-provoking questions.

Average salespeople are not comfortable asking questions because it seems like they are unprepared, clueless, not aggressively selling, need help, or admitting that they do not have all the answers. They are also reluctant, because it seems like taking and not giving.

The irony is good questions are more like giving, because you provide so much more valuable insight. The bottom line is, questions are not a popular sales strategy, because it is too passive for product-centric sales people who love to be in control, at the center of attention, and be formidable and commanding.

If you are going to give advice, or make a sales point, make the most of it by first trying to deliver it in a question format so that the customer can explore independently the relevancy of it for themselves.

I had a customer who desperately wanted to tell a client what to do without the burden of telling them what to do. He did not feel he had the trust to give them unsolicited advice. With some help, through well-thought-out questions, he was able to make his sales points to empower his customer to trust themselves, find their own conclusions and do it all on their own terms. He called it the "customer do it your self strategy."

Information sellers leave customers with the impression that even after their information dump that there is still a lot left unsaid, unexplored and unresolved. Because customers do not trust the end result of the information salvo, they cut meetings short to resolve internal and external questions themselves.

On the other hand, question-centric sales people, who are not outcome driven, will bring up all the intangible questions customers must address to make final decisions. Good questions leave customers more curious, resulting in sales people spending more quality time with customers.

Too many information sales calls end without hardly a whisper of debate, dissenting opinions, brainstorming or meaningful dialogue. These types of sales calls are one-way narratives that have sales people looking very stereotypical.

I constantly hear sales people bemoan the fact that customers do not respect their time, information and resources. Yet sales people are really operating under a double standard because they often do not respect customer's time since they do not liberally use questions to help their customers gain true insight. The only insight information sales people are concerned with is highlighting the superiority of their offering.

Some mainstream sales people are savvy enough to recognize the value of transitioning to a question-centric sales strategy and will go overboard by embracing the idea that there is no such thing as a stupid question. This is just plain stupid. Loaded questions are stupid. Questions that bring only value to sales people are stupid. Questions that ask how can I help you are stupid. Questions that ask about projects to quote on are stupid. Questions that are heavily biased are stupid.

So be discriminating and pick your questions wisely. Know that you are not asking the right questions when you consistently get the same old predictable answers. You are not asking the right questions when you never stop your customer in their tracks or you do not have any "ahah" moments for them.

When you sell with questions you put a real human face to your sales strategy as opposed to information selling which simply objectifies customers.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com