Let Your Product Speak for Itself Thru Your Questions
Customers will tend to temporarily put aside and suspend many of their doubts, questions and suspicions about you as a trustworthy sales person as long as you do not press your agenda. The more you push, the more they will tend to push back and resist. As long as you are asking questions that are balanced, neutral and thought-provoking, it will not come across as selling. "Selling is a great profession, just do not ever get caught doing it," says Gill Freeman.
It helps to take on a position of chief skeptic and doubting Thomas when using a proactive, questioning strategy. Customers want someone who is ultimately objective, fair and can find holes in their reasoning and justifications. So ask questions as if you had nothing to lose, and ask questions that both you and your customer may be afraid to hear the answer to.
Traditional sales people too often fault by extending customers the benefit of the doubt and not effectively reading between the lines. General research tells us that 80% of the time people are not telling us what is really on their mind.
Many sales people are guilty by omission when they shield, skirt, withhold and avoid asking deal breaking questions, or questions that beg to be asked. Without these questions, customers and sales people operate in the dark, without either party being able to formulate informed, balanced decisions. Tough questions are usually too little, too late.
Standard issued sales people put customers on the spot to give them an order and what they end up getting is good news that is really bad news; delayed and interminable "nos" that look like "yeses" when one is dying for good news. Sellers who are customer activists will only professionally put customers on the spot when they are waffling and being very indecisive. They will do this by making it very easy for them to say they are no longer interested, when in fact they are already 97.55% certain that this is an inevitable foregone conclusion anyway. So they have nothing to lose by seeking out the truth.
Be a devil's advocate. Ask questions as if you were a total outsider. Ask questions that your customer is more interested in hearing the answer to than you are. Salespeople genuinely want to help customers, but their strategies are poorly conceived and executed.They want to sell customers a superior offering, but are so afraid if they ask thought-provoking questions that uncover reasons for not buying that they will end up selling themselves short and selling themselves out of deals. So they default to what they know best and unwittingly pursue lost causes. This false sense of self-preservation is such an inescapable pull for mainstream sales people; do not rock the boat, do not tempt fate, do not ask risky questions that you do not want to hear the answers to.
In my trainings it is very common to see participants unwilling to ask questions that will possibly elicit negative news because they think they will appear weak and unconfident. Yet, it is a vote of confidence when customers share reality with you, and it is a gesture of supreme confidence when you ask questions that are counter-productive, or against your most immediate best interests (getting a positive outcome).
Probing with impartial questions helps the customer and benefits the sales person alike by doing damage control (disqualifying). Mainstream sales people throw caution to the wind to go blindly to the sunset, but rarely get there. When they do use questions, they often use it as a tool to beat customers into submission with obnoxious foregone conclusions. For example; Can you see where this would save you money? It cannot get much uglier than that!
Sales people will invariably be viewed as nonessential outsiders until they learn to cultivate insider knowledge through their questions. Great questions utilize unbiased assumptions. Conventional sales people preload their questions to promote only rosy outcomes for themselves. In sales, to win effectively, you have to be willing to lose efficiently.
Constructive questions are trial and error. You never know what you will find; good news or negative news. Most questions are staid, predictable, safe and superficial, which in turn elicits equally staid, predictable, safe and superficial answers. That is probably why a lot of salespeople do not ask questions because they get such lousy answers from their lousy questions. Great questions are as much a skill as they are a state of mind.