Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Third Key to Highly Effective Selling

3) Ask the Right Questions and Actively Listen
A “consultative” salesperson differs from the average salesperson by becoming an advisor and an expert to your customer. It means asking questions and helping a customer make wise decisions based on their needs versus traditional sales approaches that can feel pushy to the customer. The employee may still be doing much of the talking, but they are strategic in asking questions and listening actively. Open-ended questions get the customer talking, sometimes even selling themselves. Would that make things easy!?
“To serve one must listen to almost anything without losing one’s temper or self-confidence.”                   -Robert Frost
Another trademark technique is more of a traditional approach, hard-closing. These techniques are used to capture the sale and essentially coerce the customer to commit to something. This practice is more commonly used by sales people in an effort to close a one-time sale, where less care is place on the long-termrelationship with the customer. When using a consultative sales approach, you look after your customer’s best interest. Once you know what matters most to your customer, you can sell based on the values they care about. Understanding your customer’s needs and wants allows you to better “personalize the offer.” Skilled and successful salespeople who use a consultative selling approach build a rapport and long-term relationship with their customers.
Now that you understand what it means to take the consultative approach to selling, we must pay attention to the way we phrase questions. It is about learning from or qualifying the customer in order to provide the best service possible and then recommending as much product as is appropriate. Secondary is the ability to hear, listen and understand what is being said by the customer and to know how that relates to what you have to offer. Successful salespeople understand that getting their customers to talk and offer information about themselves is one of the most important skills they can master. There are three key questioning techniques that help us extract information in a conversational manner:
  1. Open-ended questioning allows for a variety of responses from your customer. This type of questioning injects a conversational and “personal tone” into the interaction. Inquisitive and curious in nature, open-ended questions begin with the words who, what, when, where, why and how.
  2. Probing questions are also open-ended and utilize the 5 w’s and how. However, this type of questioning is built upon the answer to the previous question. Probing questions are a tool used for extracting more information about a topic. They show that you are not only hearing your customer’s response, but that you also understand and care.
  3. The final piece in the questioning trio has a definite purpose, to steer a conversation back to the task at hand (selling) or to ask for the business (be willing to go for “No”). Close ended questions allow for control of a conversation and are best used during restating for trial closes.
When you are actively listening, the customer will feel acknowledged in the conversation. Be conscious of how your tone affects the believability of your response. Ensure that you have identified the basic needs of the customer and review if necessary the details of what they are after. This is one way to let your customer know that you are actively listening and that you will meet their needs. If you need to ask clarifying questions to get specific details, don’t be afraid to do it. It shows both humility and interest.
Remember, to show the customer you are actively listening: restate, let them talk, utilize the 5w’s, build the relationship, use their name, display curiosity and be purely interested. The more you can incorporate these tips into your conversations with the customer, the more they will notice that you are in fact listening and ready to help.
Using the 5 w’s, gather information about the customer. Restate facts for clarification and then make sure that what you communicate in a way that satisfies what they want. Remember, you are a consultant in the eyes of your customer. You will consult with them about their needs and find ways to get them what they want. They found you, they came to your place of business, and they want to spend their money.
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