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The Means is the End; Let the Best Questions Win

The means (discovery) is more important than the end (close). Because most sales people are so hyper-goal oriented towards the end result, they fail to achieve the means, (discovery), and therefore fall short of achieving their goals.

Being inquisitive will consistently outperform being persuasive. "The rallying call for any sales call should be; let the best questions win," says Gil Wagner.

Sales people are at the selling event to solve problems. Customers are there looking for answers, and we as sales people do not even know what the questions are. "The question is the answer. Questions raise awareness, encourage ownership, empower, create a pressure-free environment, help clarify thoughts, encourage clarity and enroll, and persuade people to do something they may normally resist," says Keith Rosen.

The key to selling is not the "what" but the "why." Do not focus on what customers want as much as why they want it, and what they have at stake if they do not get it. What questions tend to be perceived as self-serving, why questions tend to be perceived as being more insightful and valuable to the receiver.

Since sales people are so monopolized with their products and their application, they will tend to ask more questions about what someone needs because it allows them the opportunity to do what they love to do most; sell, hype, self-promote and blue-sky it. Why questions get to the heart of building a business case for change. Why question are perceived as risky because of the potential negative news it will produce. Most sales people would rather not bother with a dose of hard reality.

Sales people too often sell from an idealistic outlook; since a prospect agreed to meet you, they buy what you sell, they are a major account, they are active in the marketplace, then they must be predisposed to buying and you do not have to ask any tough questions or, build a business case for change. If only it was that easy. What sales people should really do is take a realistic outlook; customers are an unqualified prospect until proven otherwise. And more than likely I am not the only person they contacted.

The idealistic sales person assumes the best case scenario ,because they are perpetually moving forward and never willing to look backwards. Asking questions is a burden that just slows them down and they would feel static, passive and stagnated. Where as the realistic sales person takes the posture of slowing down, because they first have to know what is wrong before they can show someone what is right. In order to know what someone is moving towards you generally need to first learn about what they are trying to move away from. You must understand the causes and consequences of their problem. As Tom Shaw says; "You cannot have a good sales or questioning strategy until you know what you are saying no to."

If you want better answers, ask better questions. "The difference between success and failure is usually no more than one or two questions that you did not ask or that you asked incorrectly," says Josh Costell. Great questions elicit answers the customer did not really know until you showed up. Effective questions also mean you are not wasting your customers time and your own time.

When qualifying a customer for suitability and appropriateness to jointly do business together, qualify first for valid business reasons for change, and secondly for the more dominant and pervasive emotional and intuitive reasons for changing. "Our questions have to bring a buyer to a place of discovery, not to our answers or our solutions," says Sharon Drew Morgen. Make sure you do not make the mistake of qualifying a customer for whether they can buy, before you qualify them about their challenges, causes and their actionability. "Never ask situational factors such as budget, decision process, timeframe, before you have thoroughly investigated the customer's objectives," says Josh Costell. You only earn the right to incrementally ask situational questions after you have thoroughly built trust in the problem discovery process.

When you qualify customers solely for your own benefit and advantage, you put customers on the defensive. So do not be afraid to ask deal killer questions, or show-stopper questions that really challenge the customer's motives for change. "Disqualifying selling is not about trying to avoid every reason the prospect cannot buy. Instead, you actually look for reasons to disqualify the sale quickly when the deal-breaker is identified," says Gil Wagner. A good rule of thumb is not to ask questions you are not willing to accept or hear the answer to! Hopefully this does not discourage all sales people from asking questions. High performing sales people will not bat an eye lash at this.

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