Selling is as Much About Buying as it is About Selling
Selling is as much about buying as it is about selling. You need to decide if you buy into your customer's commitment and motivation to change. Use self-selection questions as a tool to help you decide. Are they responsive to your professional questions? Are they willing to talk about their most pressing problems? Do they do what they say they will do? Are they willing to put some skin in the game? Are they engaged by sharing sensitive and important information?
Only be as committed to engage customers as customers are to share information, answer questions and seriously consider changing. Look at your sales role as going on a reconnaissance mission getting confidential, sensitive, troublesome, important, proprietary and incriminating information from your customers.
"Customers spend 90% of their time thinking about themselves, their needs, their wants. It is human nature. Now think of what it is like to be on the other side of a conversation in which someone is just talking about themselves, it's boring. That is how buyers feel when salespeople pitch instead of asking questions," says Jeff Blount. So you need to get your customers into an introspective position. That is hard for sales people who are not noted for being very introspective. You will only achieve this if you can rise above your own conflicts of interest.
Customers certainly do not view sales people as being the pillars of unselfish benevolence. They know you have an ax to grind. So you need to transition from being subjective to being more objective and asking questions that customers need to explore.
Sales people so often only ask questions that customers already know the answers to. Their questions only benefit sales people, not customers. So ask questions that are unexamined. The more questions that they answer that they do not know the answer to, the higher your stock will go up. Questions that are easy to answer are often the wrong question.
The flip side of this equation is equally troublesome; sales people do not ask questions because they already know the answers. However, they do not realize the real purpose of questions is more for the benefit of customers than themselves. So if the customer has not explicitly vocalized their situation, you do not know anything. You must get it straight from the horses mouth, or it will not be worth a hill of beans. Assume nothing. Everything needs to be verified first hand and then continuously reverified, confirmed and challenged in a professional manner.
"Mainstream sales people accept and screen information only if it confirms what they already know. They generalize, distort, and delete new information until it confirms their preconceptions. Customers reject this type of self-serving salesperson, because by their actions, they reject customers," says William Davidson. Traditional sales people might as well ask rhetorical questions because they are simply not listening.
Conventional sales people have watched too many Boston Legal TV shows where lawyers are taught to never ask a question they do not know the answer to. This is pure nonsense for sales people. I see this all the time. "They ask questions that force positive answers, or they avoid grey areas in the vain hope that they will go away if the customer does not think about them," said Steven Miller. Do not be afraid to ask worst-case scenario, game breaking and moment of truth questions. Do not hedge your bets on false hope and sure things! "Often we wait for rapport before asking the hard questions when often asking the hard questions in a soft way creates report," says Randy Illig.
Proficient sales people learn to worry out loud for their customers and ask questions that have the potential to shake things up. Ask negative questions before your customer has the chance to do it themselves. If you do not, you risk losing credibility, momentum and trust. Do not be afraid to explore all possible options and outcomes, pro or con.