Are you asking good questions to keep the sales process moving forward? Do you use active listening responding to the answers? When seeking information from your prospect do you use open-ended questions?
Better To Listen Than Speak
I have often heard it said: “God gave you two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak.” Great salespeople are very good at active listening. They ask open-ended questions designed to keep the prospect talking. When the prospect tries to change the conversation to get the salesperson talking, great salespeople use the reverse technique to maintain control.
Active Listening Uses Open-Ended Questions
What are open-ended questions? They typically begin with “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “how” and sometimes “why”. These adverbs stimulate conversation. For example: “What are the goals you have for the coming year?” asks the prospect to talk about his vision of the future and how it might be accomplished. “Who, in addition to yourself, will participate in the decision to buy?” gets the great salesperson to understand the decision making process. “What is the benefit for changing suppliers now?” helps the seller to develop his key selling points.
Are Closed-Ended Questions Valuable In Active Listening?
Of course they are. Closed-ended questions are a tool great salespeople use to confirm they heard what the prospect said. Suppose you are confirming a meeting. You might ask: “Is Tuesday at 10 am still a good time to meet?” A simple “yes” from the prospect is all you really need. Active listening involves getting answers and giving feedback on what you heard. Great salespeople summarize a conversation then ask closed-ended questions like: “Is that correct?” or “Are we in agreement?” Notice, closed-ended questions typically begin with a verb.
What Happens When The Prospect Starts Asking Questions?
One active listening technique great salespeople us is the reverse. This is simply answering a question with a question. It is something we do naturally everyday. A colleague asks: “How are you today?” You respond: “Fine. How are you?” See how easy this is to get the other person back into the speaking mode. Maybe a buyer asks: “Are you able to deliver on Tuesday?” To reverse a seller might say: “Why is it important to have Tuesday delivery?” Of course having been in active listening mode a great salesperson might be ready to close asking: “If we deliver on Tuesday, would you place the order with me?” which is a closed ended response.
Active Listening Checks Where You Are In The Selling Process
Whether it is a one-call-close or a protracted negotiation, great salespeople use active listening to know when to move to the next step. Sellers use open-ended questions like: “How would reducing time to market affect your profitability?” to stimulate discussion about the need to make a change. Looking to confirm they have successfully overcome an objection a seller might ask: “Have I cleared that up for you?” Discussing funding is often a ticklish issue. Great salespeople get to the answer with an open-ended question like: “Now we have established a one-year payback, how will you fund this project? When a great salesperson believes they have found out enough information to move on to the next step in the sales process, they ask for the buyer’s agreement. “Thanks, Barbara for choosing the newer model. How about color choice?”
Champion Sellers Listen More Than Speak
Using active listening and posing good questions of the buyer, great salespeople expertly close sales. They prepare for each meeting by crafting questions to keep the buyer talking. Listening carefully and asking follow-up questions, sellers move the sales process forward.
To learn more sales secrets see Chapter Sixteen, Making The Sales Call, in Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling. For even more sales help, join our FREE Sales Club! “See” you next week.
Don Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford