A Sales Call Is A Conversation Not An Inquisition
By Dan Caramanico
Sales training professionals talk a lot about asking questions. I myself am a big proponent of asking questions. One of my favorite aphorisms is that “you tell more about what you know by the questions you ask than by the statements you make.” Questions get the prospect talking and let us find out information about the prospect. By asking questions we demonstrate our interest in the prospect and foster understanding. Rather than seeing us as a “pitchman”, questions help us establish that we are interested in a relationship with the prospect and we are not just looking for a short term result. Questions are an essential element of a prospect-centered sales process.
There are all kinds of distinctions made about questioning techniques. Trainers tell you to ask open ended questions rather than closed ended questions that can be handled with a one word answer. This is good advice since closed ended questions force you to have to carry the conversation and, as we all know, you can’t learn anything about the prospect if we are the ones doing all of the talking. They tell you to ask “probing” questions to get to the real issues. I am not so sure about this one. Sometimes probing questions can be seen as intrusive and trigger defense mechanisms in the prospect and cause him or her to shut down and make it difficult to get any more information at all. You have to earn the right to ask these kinds of questions.
Questions are a good thing but as is true of many things, too much of a good thing is not always good for you. The problem with all of this focus on questions and questioning techniques is that the sales call starts to look more like an inquisition or an interrogation and defeat the purpose of the sales call. Remember that you are trying to establish a relationship with this person not conduct a “third degree”. If the prospect starts to perceive the interaction as a one-way interrogation of sorts, it will become very hard to develop a bond or a relationship and you will be relegated to getting superficial or even misleading information. The most effective way to conduct a sales call is to establish a conversation. A conversation by definition is a two-way exchange. They ask questions. You ask questions. They make statements you make statements. It is an exchange between two people of equal stature (that’s a whole other topic by the way) trying to get to know each other. It is within this framework that you should ask your questions. They will be received in a much better fashion and give you a higher probability of getting the depth of information and emotion you are looking for. So the lesson for today is integrate your questions into a free flowing two-way conversation. Don’t fire them at the prospect in the form of an inquisition or an interrogation.
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