Ready to Ask the Question?

Peady’s Selling Engagement sponsored by IRD Prospector

 Welcome to this week’s post on sales and selling success.
A couple of weeks ago I conducted a sales training workshop with a sales team in a medium sized market – nothing unusual about that. 
The part you’ll be interested in was what happened when I moved onto a key area: the importance of questioning in the sales process. How the right questions can help uncover valuable information and lead you to genuine business opportunities. 
Several of the team expressed extreme discomfort in asking questions about anything other than advertising or marketing. In their opinion those were the only questions the prospect would expect to be asked. They believed that to ask about the prospect’s business challenges, customers, competition, future plans was prying or an invasion of privacy. 
Questioning reluctance 
Unfortunately, what they articulated is a feeling many sales people have, they just don’t say it out loud. They’re afraid to ask questions because it feels like interrogating prospective customers or they simply don’t know what questions to ask. I call it “Questioning Reluctance” it’s the cousin of “Call Reluctance” and it’s more common than you’d think. 
On the subject of questions, here’s one every sales person needs to ask themselves: “Why would my prospect consider buying what I sell?” 
If your answer is “our price”, “our audience” or “our programming”, good luck! 
Most of you would reply to that question “the prospect would consider buying if I can clearly demonstrate how my station or network can help deal with or overcome a business challenge”. 
Find the need 
The only way to find out what those challenges or opportunities are is via questioning – it’s a core-sales essential, regardless of the techniques you use. Asking smart well thought through questions is part of a structured, linear process, and fundamental to your sales success. 
What are some great “discovery” questions? Try these 3 for a start:

  • Where do you see the main opportunities for growth?
  • Do you anticipate any changes competitively?
  • What is the single largest misconception that customers have about your business?

If you’d like a list of 50 great “discovery” questions email me, or track down this great book on the subject “Secrets of Question-Based Selling
Fact: Asking questions is unavoidable: Learning to ask questions with ease and confidence has a marked, positive impact on your results. 
70/30 rule 
The best media salespeople, those at the top of the game, spend around 70% of the time with prospects asking questions and listening; but just 30% talking about themselves or their product. One elite media salesperson told me it’s 80/20, not 70/30. So how about you? What’s your “talk time” vs. “listening time”?

Until next week good selling!

About the author 

Stephen Pead is a media industry veteran of 30 years with significant experience in direct sales, sales management and general management. He is based in Sydney and specialises in helping SME’s market their businesses more effectively and providing training for salespeople and sales managers.

He can be contacted at [email protected]