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Your Solution is Totally Subjective

"To overcome someone's facade, only ask questions they ultimately want asked. We do not ask questions that are meaningful because we want to protect ourselves. Ask questions with heartfelt curiosity like a 6-year-old would," says Gil Wagner.

Customers do one thing and think and say another. Your goal is to help them see that and help them figure out for themselves, through tough questions, what is best for them. Help them get their hands around what they think they want, and what they really want based on their priorities and goals.

The aha moment, the moment of eureka, is when facades are dropped and obstructions to the realization of the truth have been removed. So selling is really a peeling back process, not a layering on or adding on process. Your questions should be built around not proving your superior offering, but helping your customer come to terms with the cost and reality of change. Deal with the barriers and hurdles head on before pressing your selling agenda.

What is the perfect solution? Every customer will tell you what they think is perfect. However, there is no ideal solution. To add insult to injury when you throw in timing, internal politics, personal preferences and idiosyncratic opinions, emotions, priorities and competing initiatives all bets are off.

Your solution is totally subjective and frequently at the whim and circumstances of your customers. It has no intrinsic value. But, through careful probing you can greatly increase your odds as to where, with whom and under what circumstances to pick your battles and when if necessary to cut your losses. Assume nothing.

Sellers so often act as if they are the "Shell Answer Man." However, your goal is not to answer, but to ask, listen, probe, assess and learn. Customers get more value from you in this position. So instead of being the answer man, be the understanding man, or the question man. And for heaven sakes do not waste their time asking questions that they already have easy answers to. Ask them questions they are afraid to ask of themselves. Ask them questions that they care more about finding answers to than you do. Ask them questions that could put your position at risk. Lastly, you will lose their interest rapidly if your questions are self-serving in areas of needs, requirements and specifications.

There becomes a problem with questions when the answer is so obviously linked to the question. Sales people lose stature when their questions leave only a foregone positive conclusion and outcome that they're seeking. In a court of law they would be accused of leading the witness. Too many sellers only ask safe and soft questions as if going thru the motions to confirm the value of their offering. They are confined to one narrow channel in their line of inquiry as they soldier on to the finish line.

To dig deep ask more "why" questions. Questions that are geared towards "why" will trump questions that are geared towards "what." Why customers want something, or why they want to avoid something, is far more telling than what they want and need. That is why needs based selling is so ineffective. Sales people who favor "what" questions are very product-centric and company-centric, and are more concerned with motivating someone to buy than understanding why they would be motivated to buy or change.

Everything you have to sell, no matter how positive the potential outcome and advantages are for your customer, are rife with equally competing initiatives, hidden new problems, opposing priorities and conflicts of interest. Help facillitate the change process by posing questions that give balance and tells both sides of the story. All solutions, especially new technology, have a disruptive element to it. So instead of selling your offering as an end-all be-all, realize that it has the potential, from the perspective of your customer, to really interfere, upset, and throw into disorder their existing system, or way of doing things.

Once you acknowledge and accept this you will be willing to ask a lot more realistic and tough questions around the feasibility and cost of change. Because most sales people would not dream of objectifying their line of questioning to seek out potential negatives, they tend not to have balanced, trusting and authentic conversations. "Frame all your questions with options and alternatives. Ask questions instead of giving advice where clients can hear more deeply their own answers," says Scott Ginsberg.

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: https://tangentknowledge.com