Why is it that so many salespeople choose to focus on learning new closing skills? I think they’re wasting their time. If you find yourself focusing on how you’re going to “close” your customer, you may be making selling harder than it needs to be. When I work with salespeople, what I’ve found is that salespeople who focus on closing instead of opening are looking at the wrong end of the sales process. Here’s what I suggest they do instead.
Get them talking. For every sales professional I work with, we plan our sales call strategy. That strategy includes how you are going to start the sales call and the questions you will be asking. Sure you may make a little small talk before the sales call begins. That’s OK. Then you had better plan your transition into the sales conversation. Why? Schmoozing isn’t selling! The way you get down to business is to plan your opening question. This “Pinball” question is a question that gets your customer to talk about his business. Pinball is an old game where the objective was to keep the ball in play by keeping it moving back and forth. Your question is designed to keep the conversation going back and forth between you and the customer. The Pinball question is an open ended question (cannot be answered by yes or no or a few words) and starts a dialogue with your customer doing most of the talking. By listening to your customer, that’s the only way you’re going to learn about his business and where your products and services fit in to solve problems or address needs.
Continue by asking about issues that your customer might experience that your products can solve. You are wasting your time asking about problems that you cannot solve. Why? Because you can’t sell anything. You want your customers to buy. Knowledge is power. It’s your job to find out why they need to buy from you. The way to find out is to ask for this information. That’s why questioning and listening skills are so important in selling.
You can never predict with complete accuracy how a sales call will unfold. You still have to prepare a plan for how you want the sales call to flow. You should have a questioning strategy. The questions that you prepare are a general map for gathering the information you need to sell.
Give them only what they need or want. Why is questioning so important? Imagine starting your sales call by talking all about your fabulous product or service. What if there’s no match between your products and what your customer wants? You’re then forced to convince your customer there really is a need. That’s not selling. It’s being coercive and manipulative. What if you begin by talking about a feature that is of little use to your customer? Your customer will definitely lose interest and stop listening.
By starting with questions, you begin a dialogue with your customer that allows you to develop a customized presentation that addresses your customer’s needs. When you focus on customers and their needs, you will gather the information that you need to sell. You can then determine how to best serve your customer and present your products and services. After you have identified 3 customer needs, you can demonstrate why you are the best choice for your customer. Why risk being perceived as a pushy salesperson? Let your customer perceive you as being a helpful salesperson.
And when you are preparing the questions to ask, remember the last one. It’s “When would you like to buy?” That’s the only close I know.