As salespeople, asking questions is a fundamental skill. Talking to prospect customers is not as important as asking them questions, because this is a great way to understand what the potential customer needs, and in fulfilling that need, make a sale.
Yet, asking the wrong thing is worse than not asking anything. This is because some questions can leave a wrong impression on the buyer about you or the product/ service you are selling. It might even damage the relationship beyond repair.
If we are being honest, buyers do require assistance in making a purchase on a lot of things. Yet, they hesitate before approaching salespeople for help. This does not help either the customer, nor you, the salesperson. And sometimes, it’s just the wrong things that your sales guys you are asking. You have to speak to them and make sure that they aren’t wasting time on such questions. You may have to invest in sales training to ensure that they have the right questions.
So let’s look at some common questions your sales team is getting wrong:
“How are you?”
This is a common question that most of us start with. While it is not wrong in itself, it is a formality that even the customer realises is just a filler for you to gather your thoughts. They know that you are probably not even listening as you are formulating the right approach for them. It may be effective, but when every single salesperson is using this question to begin a conversation, it’s time you change your approach. A better way to start would probably be to start with the issue directly, like, “Are you considering buying this? Let me tell you about its functions.” This way, they avoid the awkward chit-chat and you immediately catch attention with information that is immediately relevant to them.
Consider sales consultancy for your sales employees so they get the conversation right. The important thing is to make the customer trust you, and if he thinks that your conversation starter is a cliche, the opportunity for sale might pass.
What budget are we working with?
This is another question that salespeople think will make the process easier. But obviously, the customer is aware of why you are asking this question. They will almost always not reveal their budget, which is already a strike.
An effective salesperson has to first understand the customer need, and estimate their spend capability. There is no point in asking questions that will not get you a straight answer. This might seem like a small first step. But successful sales trainers advise that this question should be avoided with customers.
Can you tell me a little bit about your business?
This question will straightaway tell your potential customer that you have not put any effort into the conversation. This information is always available, and effective salespeople would have done the research before even saying hello.
Sales trainers emphasise that this is a terrible question to ask a potential buyer. Even related questions such as “What are your pain points?” or “what is your competition?” do not show you in a good light.
Do you have a minute?
No! This question is not even true. Do you think the customer does not know that it will take more than a minute for you to pitch the product? Will this encourage him to trust you to give valuable information, or has the customer already made up his or her mind that you are only repeating the pitch you almost always use? So their answer is going to be No!
Instead, a better way to start a call or conversation is by asking if this is a good time to talk. The potential client is almost certain to say yes, it’s a good time. All you are asking for is if the customer can talk to you. They are now invested in the conversation, and you have a better chance of closing the deal.
Would you like some time to think about it?
This question is tricky at best. At first glance it might seem like a good idea to give the customer some space to think about the purchase. Otherwise you are worried you might come across as pushy. But the truth is, you might be letting the sale get away.
Sales trainers and consultants will tell you that you have to engage your customer in a way that they will be ready to be persuaded. When you are in the middle of the pitch, if you take your foot off the accelerator, you are letting them lose interest. They are likely to get distracted with something, and all the effort you put into the pitch will be lost.
These questions might not make or break a sale, but they weaken your sales game. Sales training can make sure that you and your team build a strong gameplan on approaching potential customers.