Sales success usually begins with the ability to ask good questions and then listen – really listen – to the answers.
Reason: Good questioning helps salespeople create value. It offers them the ability to determine if there’s a fit between themselves and the prospect.
The ability to effectively listen and understand a prospect’s business is what prospects really want from salespeople, according to a survey by the Chally Group, a sales development firm.
Nearly 40% of a buyer’s decision to purchase is directly related to the effectiveness of his or her salesperson, according to the survey. It exceeds product quality and features in terms of what’s important to customers, the survey concluded.
Developing good questions
Given the advantages of good questioning, you’d think sales professionals would spend the bulk of their time developing good questions and learning how to phrase them properly.
It doesn’t happen enough. Studies show that salespeople do 80% of the talking during a sales call. They’re not asking the right questions, and they aren’t listening.
Instead, they’re telling the customer something about their product or service that may not correspond to the customer’s interests or needs.
Shorter is worse
The less time the average salesperson has to spend with the prospect, the greater the chance that the bulk of that time is spent talking. The natural tendency is for salespeople to talk nonstop to be sure they get their entire presentation in.
If they allow a customer one-minute out of every five to talk, the information they get is going to be inferior to what they would be able to get if they said less and listened more.
Seven top reasons
Here are seven top reasons why effective questioning and listening drives business:
- Good questioning and listening helps you understand the current prospect situation and decide whether the account is worth pursuing.
- It allows you to identify and engage the right people that need to be involved in a buying decision. It helps you avoid wasting your time and the prospect’s time by making the right presentation to the wrong person.
- Asking the right questions and listening to responses helps establish a rapport that drives communication between you and the prospect.
- It helps establish a “comfort level” between you and the prospect to facilitate the exchange of essential information.
- It enables you to identify significant differences between your own capabilities and those of your competition. Good questioning can help you uncover your competitors’ weaknesses and highlight your own strengths.
- Good questioning reinforces your credibility with a customer. It demonstrates that you’re interested in his or her needs and opinions, and not just in pushing product.
- Good questioning can motivate and sustain your customer’s interest, stimulate thinking and modify attitudes regarding you and your product or service.