"I keep six honest serving men - They taught me all I know, Their names are what and why and when -- And how and where and who."
Six Honest Serving Men, Rudyard Kipling, 1903
As you and I know the secret to successful selling is to ask the right questions.
If we do this skilfully, we become seen as a problem solver and the dynamic or ‘power base’ shifts from a seller/buyer relationship into that of two equal partners. You are then not selling…you are simply helping the customer to buy.
In order to sell effectively we need to know what will make the customer buy from us. In order to do this we need to ask them….and listen wholly and exclusively to what they say!
A highly effective type of question is known as an ‘open question’. These are often prefaced by either ‘who?’, ‘what?’, ‘when?’, ‘why?’ ‘where?’ or ‘how?’.
These are all questions that will encourage the customer to talk about their current situation and needs. If we are listening attentively (and many sales people I work with do not!) then we are able to gather the right level of information and are able to tailor our ultimate presentation to show how we can meet their specific and stated requirements.
Here is a list of some of the possible questions:
‘Who’ questions • Who will be using the product? • Who will need to be trained to use the product? • Who will sign off the order?
‘What’ questions • What problem are you looking to solve? • What impact does this problem currently have? • What do you look for when you are buying new widgets? • What else?
‘When’ questions • When are you looking to introduce the new widget? • When would you need delivery? • When would you want the training programme to start?
‘Why’ questions • Why do you say that? • Why is that an issue for you? • Why do you need to change the process now? • Why do you think that?
‘Where’ questions • Where will the widgets make the biggest impact? • Where will you need the delivery to go to? • Where do you get your widgets from currently?
‘How’ questions • How can I help you solve that problem? • How quickly will you need the widgets? • How would that work in practice? • How will this change the way you currently work?
A word of caution here…in order to maintain rapport it is important to use open questions naturally and conversationally otherwise it could feel to the customer that they are being bombarded.
Likewise, if we can link our next question to the last customer answer we are more likely to demonstrate that we have actively listened to them, show understanding, and ultimately be more successful in matching the benefits of our proposal to what the customer is looking for.
This linking of questions takes time and lots of practice but is superbly effective.