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Selling Skills: Using questioning techniques to ask great questions – and listen!

Editors Note: Expert content needs an expert content writer and Yorkshire Powerhouse is pleased to publish this business advice article on using questioning techniques, kindly written by a real expert in her field – Ros Jones who provides the Sales Enriched sales training courses.

Please consider contacting Ros for any aspect of sales development – just click on the advert links above or below – and please mention Yorkshire Powerhouse if you do make contact.

What kind of salesperson are you? Are you the order taker waiting for someone to ask if they can buy something, the product pusher who talks about nothing more than the product, the over-seller who promises the world to get a sale, or the problem solver who helps the customer find what they need by asking great questions and listening?

When we get finally get to meet our prospects, it’s important to clearly define and understand their needs: what are their issues, problems and concerns? And how will our solutions, services or products help them and ensure a good return on their investment?  What is vitally important to them? What is in it for them? How can we help them?

Why are Questions So Important?

The best kind of salesperson is the problem solver and we have to ask great questions and take the time to listen so that we can decide how best to help identify a prospect’s needs and the best solution.

Great questioning techniques…

  • Establish the prospect’s objectives, goals and thought processes
  • Are successful in maintaining a 30%-70% balance in sales discussions
  • Help you maintain control of the sales meeting
  • Encourage or prompt buying signals
  • Assist in handling and overcoming objections
  • Help in closing the sale

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There are various traditional types of questions that have always been used in the sales process.  These questions help salespeople to strengthen sales presentations and meet the needs of their potential customers.

As we look at some of these questions, it’s important to emphasise that we will already have built the bonds and created the rapport to engender trust with our prospects, and that is what will help them to feel comfortable to buy from us.

The Question Funnel

Imagine a funnel: at the top we ask broad, open-ended questions, then we drill down into more specific questions before we offer solutions, check we’re on track and then get into the detail of the sale.

Open-ended questions

Open questions are questions the prospect cannot answer just with a YES or NO reply.  They prompt more detailed answers, therefore giving you more information which, if you listen and notice, will help you to direct the meeting more your way.

Open Questions often begin with WHY, WHEN, WHERE, WHAT, WHO AND HOW?

We do need to remember to avoid using a “20 Questions” approach. Use questions naturally in a conversational manner aiming to create a feeling of your genuine interest in them. Use question “softeners” like:

  • “Can I just ask … ?”
  • “By the way … “
  • “Incidentally … “

Closed questions

Closed questions will add value to a sales meeting if asked at the right time. If the open questions have been asked correctly and listened to, closed questions provide confirmation – allowing you to move forward, so they are typically used in the later stages of a sales meeting.

Reflective questions

As the sales meeting progresses, here are some very useful questioning techniques that use the questions to clarify points in the prospect’s mind. We are changing answers already given, or statements already made by the prospect, to lead them into recognising the opportunities and solutions that your offering will bring.

These types of questions will lead to the scenario that the prospect is buying from you which can also serve as a useful tool in the process of handling objections. Some examples might be:

  • “So, what you are actually saying is …”
  • “In other words, you feel that if we can overcome …”
  • “If I may be sure and summarise your main goals, could we really say that …”

Directive questions

And then we get to the stage where we have some leading questions. These guide the prospect and subtly bring their patterns of thought around to focussing on you and the solutions you can provide through your proposals. They are also a subtle way of you maintaining control of the meeting. Examples could be:

  • “You mentioned earlier that …”
  • “What is most important to you is …”
  • “The problems you are having …”

Closing the deal question

Once you’ve checked that you’re on track that the solution you have in mind matches your prospect’s needs, and the prospect has confirmed, you close by asking something like:

  • “Would it be OK if I outlined what we need to do to get that underway?” or
  • “Which fits best with what you had in mind?”

And then, finally, you shut up and wait for the answer …

Selling skills are techniques that need to be taken on board if you truly want to be a successful business – seek out experts who can coach and train you or your team in the selling techniques that will set you apart.

Observations on selling skills from Yorkshire Powerhouse

You’ve read our article on Questioning Techniques – have you any questions?

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