The science of selling is not about persuasion or the hard sell or the close. It isn’t what people think selling is at all.
The essence of salesmanship is knowing what your prospect wants in terms of their specific needs, and demonstrating that you can deliver this through the entire process.
And to know these things, you have to ask questions. Basically you’re trying to disqualify bad prospects early through questioning, until you’re left with only the good ones.
Better questions will lead to better answers—and they don’t need to be complex! You don’t need to try and persuade anyone; speak clearly and with clarity. The best questions you ask will be wrapped up with your own expertise, so they’ll be naturally persuasive.
Now, you’re probably wondering: what are the questions that I should be asking? Well, the good news is that because this process is conversational, most businesses can use the same line of questioning, with small modifications.
So let’s get into them.
What to ask
First: what you ask will depend on what kind of qualifying you’re doing. There are three types of qualifying:
1: Organizational or business level: This is just determining if your prospect is the right fit for your offering. Don’t get distracted by thinking that everyone is your client. It’s more purposeful to focus on your niche and do everything you can to dominate that space.
2: Problem-solving level: Does your prospect have a particular need that your offering could fix?
3: Stakeholder level: The most important element here is making sure you’re dealing with the decision-maker—more on that soon.
Obviously, how you ask these will vary depending on your situation, but you can see the basic idea is very simple, and very adaptable:
1: “What are your current business challenges?” This establishes the pain or need—is there a problem you can solve here, or should you move on?
2: “How does your decision-making process work?” This simple, yet powerful question has many layers which I can’t unpack here, but fundamentally you’re wanting to know what it will take for this opportunity to turn into a sale.
3: “What are you doing about your current problem?” This gives you good intelligence on how well your prospect understands his issue, and what he’s willing to do right now to solve it—which means you know exactly where he’s at, and how far he is from buying from you.
4: “What happens if you do nothing to resolve this?” A great way to figure out if there is enough urgency to make a decision now.
Simple. If you can ask questions, you can learn how to qualify properly.
Remember: You need to qualify throughout the entire sales process. So a superb question to continually ask yourself is, “What don’t I know about this opportunity?” When in doubt, ask more questions.
It’s a process that, when repeated, becomes part of your natural selling instinct – and more importantly will change your whole life. It’s completely learnable. This approach coupled with the right attitude is the #1 winning formula for any professional involved in selling anything.
Carry on reading: The great half-truth: “The more you fill your pipeline, the more sales you’ll close” in Selling in a Sh1T Economy.