A good sales conversation involves the salesperson asking questions. As you listen to your client answer the questions you ask, your brain will give you ideas about how you might help. In a typical conversation, you’d probably offer these ideas as they occurred to you. In a good sales conversation with a client, we suggest you don’t say your ideas as they occur to you. You wait. You stay in the question. In this way, a good client conversation actually modifies the natural conversation process slightly. Here’s why.
1. Once you start talking about your idea, especially if you only have one, and double especially if it relates to your product, it’s hard not to defend it. And defending your product or idea at the beginning of a meeting is not a good start to a productive sales conversation.
2. At the end of the meeting you are most informed. An idea you had early in the meeting will get better (or discarded) as you learn more from your client.
3. It’s a powerful dynamic to summarize, at the end of a meeting, all the ideas you have to help your client (not just those linked to your product). It shows you listened with them in mind, throughout the whole meeting. It illustrates your potential value on many levels.
It takes practice to modify your normal conversational method; to not interject your ideas; to hold them until the end. Here are some conversation modification tips to help you stay in the question.
1. Look for and ask open–ended ‘How to…’ or ‘How might you…’ questions. ‘What might be all the ways…’ is another nice stem. These are open-ended questions that leave space for lots of answers and conjecture.
2. ‘Can you tell me more about…’ is a great starter to keep you in the question. (Ok, it’s technically a yes or no question, but it works like an open ended one. If the answer is ‘yes’, folks will usually go ahead and tell you more about it.)
3. Often you’ll have an idea or an answer jumping to get out of your head. You want to say, “You should expand to the south?” It’s hard not to. Try turning it into a question.
“To achieve more scale, have you though about expanding to the south?”
(This is better than saying. “You should do X.”)
But, you probably noticed that the question above is really an idea disguised as a question. It’s better than saying. “You should do X.” But, it’s not open-ended.
So, instead of proposing your idea, turn your yes-no question into an open question.
‘What might be all the ways to achieve scale?’
Maybe they already tried expanding south, (or whatever X is). If they have, the ‘What might be all the ways’ question above will usually elicit that. And hearing all the other things they tried so far may give you more ideas about what else they could try. Note those ideas, and save them until you’re finished questioning.
The most important thing to remember about Questions is to stay in them. The question starter stems help you do that. Again, they are..
How might you..?
What might be all the ways..?
Can you tell me more about..?
Remember, stay in the question.