Ten Or So Pointers for Successful Questioning

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When it comes to sales closing, there’s absolutely a right way to question your customer. This way leads to a successful close, whereas the wrong way leads to missed opportunity. When diligently applied, the following ten (or so) pointers almost always move you to a successful close:

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  • Ask how you can help. When you first meet potential new clients, you need to ask questions to determine just what you can do for them. The single best question for this strategy is, How can I help you? This is a good question to get the ball rolling because it helps you figure out specifically how you can serve the customers’ needs.

  • Determine specific benefits. This strategy helps you narrow down your offering from the many options you have to offer the prospective client. For example, you can say something like, That set comes in a choice of colors. Would the Bluejay Blue go better on your patio or the Grassyknoll Green?

  • Acknowledge the facts. You can do more with questions than just ask about the client’s needs. You can state a fact as a question and get her agreement. Case in point: You said that the 10-year extended warranty was important to you, didn’t you? When your client agrees with you on this point, you can confirm that she’s going ahead. After all, she wouldn’t agree to wanting the warranty if she wasn’t serious about getting the product or service, right?

  • Test the customer’s level of commitment. If you’re not sure how strong the customers’ desire is to go ahead after you’ve given them all the details about the product or service, ask! An example test question like, How are you feeling about everything we’ve discussed so far? gets your clients to let you know whether they’re for, against, or indifferent to what they’ve discovered about your product and how it suits their needs.

  • Arouse emotions. Arousing and directing emotions can be tricky. You want to be certain that you’re arousing the right emotions for the situation. As an example, if you’re selling home security products you can ask, Won’t you sleep better on the road next week knowing that your wife, children, and pets are protected by our security system? With this question, you help the customer picture his family and pets sleeping peacefully and protected — which conjures a positive emotion.

    Don’t try to raise emotions when discussing the money aspects of the sale. Most people will conjure up negative images about money leaving their hands for good. For example, don’t say, Won’t you feel great knowing this $200 per month is going toward little Johnnie’s college education? The client may picture little Johnnie needing new shoes because he’s growing so fast and may think about how expensive shoes are, which may make the client feel overwhelmed about his responsibility as a parent. When you’re talking about money, stick to the facts and figures unless money is the final objection. If it is, then you may want to tie it to something emotional that the client may miss out on by not going ahead today (like little Johnnie’s college graduation ceremony).

  • Get the minor affirmations flowing. Minor agreements accumulate into major ones, and that’s where you want to end up — with a major agreement! Consider using the following question for getting a minor yes: This brand of furniture has an excellent reputation for quality, and quality is important when making a purchase of this sort, isn’t it? The minor yes you get in response gives you a foundation for knowing how much the client is willing to invest in the furniture she’s discussing with you. From this point, narrow down her specific needs to pieces, styles, finishes — all the details. After she chooses what she wants, you can cover the money.

  • Involve your customers in ownership. If your product is something tangible, such as a car, you can ask questions about placement of it after ownership. In other words, where will it reside? Does the customer have garage space for it? Will he park it on the street? If your product is intangible, you have to help customers picture themselves owning the benefits of it. If your product is insurance, for example, help them see themselves covered in an unfortunate instance.

    The more you help customers feel ownership of your product or service, the less closing you have to do later.

  • Isolate areas of concern. Concerns are simply points that you need to address or readdress to make your client comfortable enough to make a buying decision. To isolate the customer’s primary concern, simply ask this question at the end of your presentation: So your primary concern seems to be (fill in the blank)? Am I correct in my understanding of that?

  • Make sure concerns are settled. After you address a concern and you believe the customer is satisfied with the information you’ve given to him, you need to get confirmation so the same concern doesn’t come up again when it’s time to close. This strategy is simple yet powerful. After you’ve addressed the customer’s concern and he seems comfortable, say, Now that settles that, doesn’t it?

  • Stay in control. If you feel you’re not in control of the selling situation, ask a question to bring the conversation back to the task at hand.

  • Rationalize decisions for your clients. People buy products and services emotionally and then defend the purchases logically. Say your client is a working mom who wants to spend less time cleaning her house in the evenings and on the weekends and more time making fun memories with her kids. How would a champion salesperson close this sale? By asking questions and rationalizing the decision for the client.

    • You: I can see that you’re hesitant to make this financial commitment. Let’s think this through for a moment. How much time do you think you spend on these chores?

    • Her: I probably spend at least 10 to 12 hours per week cleaning and keeping up with the laundry.

    • You: Okay, let’s go with 10 hours per week. Based on the amount of time you say you put into taking care of these chores, the $50 per week investment boils down to $5 per hour, which is less than minimum wage. I don’t know what you earn in the working world, but don’t you think your time is worth more than $5 per hour?

  • Ask for the close. There are right and wrong ways to ask closing questions. You (obviously) don’t flat-out ask, Do you want it or not? You do, however, ask for the client’s approval, okay, endorsement, or authorization on the paperwork so you can immediately begin serving his needs. Never, ever leave the presence of a client without asking for the sale!


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