The key role of questions within the sales process is to uncover the insights and information you need from a customer to be able to demonstrate how your product/service can help.
But what are those insights that you need to know?
Start with these seven:
It’s really important that you discover early on in the conversation whether or not the person you’re talking with has the authority to decide to invest in your product/service.
This sounds obvious, but many wasted hours can be spent engaging in dead-end conversations. A quick tip – if you find you’re not talking with the decision-maker, see if they can introduce you to someone who is. Of course, do this gracefully,or you might make someone feel like they got deserted on the dance floor.
Regardless of the quality or fit of your product/service, if your customer does not have the budget to invest with your business, you will not close. So do some digging to determine what their pricing expectations are.
Gone are the days when you can rely on the features to pitch a product/service. In order to gain credibility and correctly position your solution for your prospect, you need to understand what it is they want to achieve.
Once you understand the goals your customer is working towards, you will start to understand how your business can offer up a solution to help them achieve those goals. Speak from this angle and your relevancy will skyrocket.
If you can understand how your customer is planning to achieve their goals, you can get some strategic insights into the direction the business is taking and develop solid talking points for your company's offering.
For example, if you’re selling a complex or a high-ticket item (such as computer software or training), it’s so important to know the bigger picture. That’s because you have to be able to demonstrate how your offer will help the business strategically. No longer can you offer your product in isolation (after all, a new IT system will have wide-reaching implications for the business).
If you understand the expected hurdles your customer has anticipated, you can consider these within your pitch. There may be suggestions you can make, or offer tweaks to the delivery to help your customer achieve and overcome the obstacles. As the Challenger Sale advises, get the prospect to say "I never thought of it that way!"
If your product/service needs to fit into a bigger picture solution, it’s crucial you understand the timeframe for this. That’s because you need to know if you’re able to meet the required timescale. In addition, you’ll also get a good insight into the key milestones and the other factors that the business is facing, that your solution may have an impact on.
If you can get a clear understanding of what’s worrying your customer, you can then alleviate those fears. You could find this helps to smooth the sales process and pave the way for a deal. For example, a customer may be concerned about securing buy-in for a new solution from their team. Once you know this, you can share case studies and stories of other customers with the same fears and how they overcame them. If they’re concerned about usability, you can explain how simple your product is to use, or the training you offer to ensure it works for them.
The key here is to never assume. Something that you find straightforward and obvious may be the barrier that’s preventing the customer from moving to the next stage of your sales process.
The right questions at the right time in the sales process can help you uncover the insights you need to understand what’s important and the direction a customer is taking. In the absence of these insights, it’s almost impossible to show how your business is relevant and to earn the credibility you need to persuade prospects to choose you over others.
What insights are critical to the success of your sales process? What information do you encourage your sales reps to uncover to improve the effectiveness of your sales cycle? Please let me know in the comments below.
Richard Young is Bullhorn CRM’s Director of CRM Sales, EMEA. Richard has built an in-depth knowledge of the CRM industry based on over 20 years of experience. Richard has worked with a diverse range of companies including WPP Group, KPMG, McKinsey & Co., Royal Bank of Scotland, American Express, HP and Mercedes-Benz.
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