Professional salespeople will take the time to obtain the information they need to match the right product for their customers by conducting fact-finding sessions, and as the name implies, it’s a series of questions asked of prospects. The purpose of these questions is to investigate the needs of the prospect and to get a conversation going. Of course, what he tells you will help you determine the direction of your sales presentation. I believe these questions should be kept simple and easy to answer. Once you ask a question, be certain to keep quiet long enough to give your prospect enough time to respond. I can’t emphasize enough, listening is a vital part of selling. Truly outstanding salespeople are all excellent listeners and know what questions to ask to find the right product for their customer.
Just as my door is always closed during a sales presentation, I would call the main switchboard to say: “I’m in conference, so would you please be sure to hold all of my calls. Of course you should always turn off your personal phone too when meeting with a customer. Not only does this make the customer feel like a VIP , it also keeps in-coming calls from interrupting your presentation and timing. I’ll guarantee you that as soon as you start talking on the telephone, the prospect will cool off. I can’t imagine any salesperson taking calls during a sales presentation, yet I see this happening all the time. Did you ever see an attorney take a call while pleading a case, or a surgeon taking a phone call in the middle of an operation? Well, neither should a salesperson. It simply doesn’t make any sense how anyone can be so shortsighted as to give time to a stranger on the phone when he or she is eyeball-to-eyeball with a customer in the flesh. Stay focused on the person you are with and give them your undivided attention.
When a fact finding session is properly executed, you elevate yourself to a professional level considerably higher than most run-of-the-mill salespeople. You become an authoritative figure and position yourself in a consulting role rather than a selling one. I don’t care what you sell, people respect expertise. In today’s marketplace, everyone wants to deal with a professional. I think it’s a serious mistake to have preconceived ideas about what customers want without first making a sincere effort to find out. Asking questions is the surest way to obtain knowledge. What a customer wants may not be something he’ll be happy with or can afford. I want to know what the customer wants to do and what he ought to do and what he can afford to do. I look and I listen and I ask. What I look and listen for are things that will open him up, get him talking, so that he will tell me about himself, his needs, and his ability to pay. I may ask him what he’s got in mind or what he’s driving now, but mostly I’ll just be passive while I watch and listen and let the customer reveal himself to me.
Too many salespeople think they can control the sale by not allowing the prospect to get a word in edgewise. I completely disagree for three reasons: First, questions are asked to get the necessary answers to find out what the prospect’s needs are. Second, questions are a sign of sincerity, expressing a desire to help the prospect. Third, when questions are properly asked, they do, in fact, help maintain control of the sales interview. I don’t care what product you sell—automobiles, computers, houses, insurance—you have to ask a lot of questions to find out what the prospect’s needs are, otherwise, you’ll end up working in the dark. Nobody who really understands the art of selling can possibly think that a sales presentation is supposed to be a one-way conversation. It’s your responsibility to make the prospect feel comfortable participating in it. If you do this properly, you won’t lose control, but instead, you’ll gain it. The more the prospect talks, the more they reveal about themselves to you. The more you understand about their needs and wants, the better equipped you’ll be to provide them with the right solution and product!