Articles on Selling by Robert Seviour
Mind-reading for salespeople
Would you find it easier to get a sale if you could read your customer's mind?
Assuming you said yes, here's how to do it. Ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers, your customer will tell you everything you want to know. Easy, eh?
Well it sounds easy, but it takes self-discipline to do it right. Let's start with the questions to ask.
The first type is what are known as 'open' questions, meaning that they usually produce informative answers of some length - as opposed to 'closed' questions which do the opposite.
Some examples; 'What are the reasons that you are thinking of upgrading your computer?' 'What problems did you have with the old one?' 'What tasks do you use your computer for?'
Another question word which is ideal to use for open questions is 'how'.
'How do you tackle that problem at the moment?', 'How are the high gas prices affecting your industry?'
Those were all open questions. I think you'll agree that with appropriate open questions, the information the customer reveals will help you make your presentation more focused on what the customer cares about.
'Closed' questions have their uses, too.
'Would this product give you the features you need?', 'Is 50 pages per minute fast enough for your application?', 'Is Tuesday morning a good time to call you?'
These questions get specific items of information or confirmation that you have understood the customer correctly.
Just be careful that you don't use closed questions where an open one would produce a better result, it's a common mistake. Here's a classic mis-use of a closed question.
'Can I help you with anything?'
How many thousands of times do salespeople say that every day? What response does it usually get? 'No thanks, I'm just looking'.
That's a useless answer, and now the customer may be less likely to tell you what he really wants, because he may feel a bit pressured.
A good salesperson can improve on this very simply; 'Good morning sir, my name is Jim, if you need any help, just let me know. By the way, we've got a special on BigWidgets at the moment'.
Develop a set of good, relevant open and closed questions to use when you are talking with customers. After a while, you will find that you can frequently ask more or less the same ones every time. It helps because you then don't have to think so hard about what you are going to ask next. Instead you can concentrate on listening carefully to the customer's answers.
That part is critical, of course. It's little use to get a flow of good information coming from the customer . . . and then ignore it. I call this 'Professional Listening'.
Now that the customer has revealed what their reasons are for being interested in your product or service, you can respond so accurately they may tell you,
'You've read my mind'
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