Lull Your Customers with Listening and Slay them with Questions
Customers learn more from us through the quality and quantity of our questions than through the quality and quantity of our information. When done properly, selling is a learning process executed through questions, not a teaching process executed through information proliferation. Questions are your best medium to be educated and informed, and ironically, likewise for your customers.
Most traditional sales people have to relearn a communication strategy that they all know, but have forgotten, or are uncomfortable using; asking thought-provoking questions. Too many sales people are question repressed. And when they do ask questions it often becomes a movable feast. Their intent is to probe, but they get carried away with their pitch and they never recover. They see questions as a quick courtesy and a prelude to the main event; their product/service story.
Often in my seminars I get sales people to fess up that they seem powerless and helpless with questions because they cannot guarantee the answers that they want. Lots of sales people have difficulty with questions because it requires improvisation since all their material will come directly from an uncontrollable source; the customer's mouth. You work off what they say, instead of working off your tightly scripted sales pitch.
It is not the information that you bring to the table that makes the difference, it is the insight and information that you take from the meeting that makes the difference. It is not the evidence that you bring, it is the evidence that you leave with about the customer that makes the difference whether you will win/lose/draw.
If customers forget roughly 90% of what you say in less than 48 hours and only recall accurately a third of what you said, then how compelling is the strategy of pitching? It is the feelings and instincts about you and your solution that they remember long after you left, not your selling points. If you buy into that then it really makes sense to transition to a question and listening strategy, because that is the biggest factor in leaving someone with a positive feeling and emotion that they have been heard, been understood and cared for.
I recently read an ad caption for an electric car, "I am silent but see me roar." Sales people should be the same; silent in their listening/empathy and roaring with curiosity and inquisitiveness. Expanding your message without words is the apex of the strategic questioning strategy. Let your customer expand their message with more words and pronouncements of their problems, challenges and their commitment to take action or not.
Lull your customers with listening and slay them with questions. "Papa told me that he couldn't bear to hear someone talk but himself, but could listen to himself for hours without getting tired," said Susan Twain commenting on her father Mark. Customers will rarely tire of well-thought-out questions that they gain deep insight into their business from neutral sales people that they trust. So sit back, listen and question on, and let your customer be the center of attention.
Be a minimalist by asking questions to bring out the maximalist in your customer. The art of qualifying and disqualifying sells without trying too hard, while selling tries so hard without ultimately selling. Remember, using questions as your main selling strategy is one of the most personal approaches you can take with a customer, because you get so close to their business and their true motivations. Whereas pitching and pushing product is a very impersonal selling approach.