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Many sales processes will tell you to start with the basic questions when engaging a prospect: The Who, What, Where and How.

The problem is, these questions sound more like an interrogation than a conversation, yet a conversation is exactly what a prospecting call should sound like.

So how do you get your customer talking and telling you about themselves and their goals, challenges, and needs? The answer: Stop treating this like a sales call and start treating it like a conversation.

You must make it sound more like a casual conversation with friends. Prepare questions that encourage the customer to open up and give you more than just a short answer.

Here are a few great questions you can use to get an engaging conversation going:

  • “Tell me about…”
  • “Give me an idea…”
  • “Why have you chosen…”

Ask them to:

  • Paint you a picture of …
  • Describe for you…
  • Explain to you…
  • Walk you through…
  • Bring you up to speed…
  • Share an example with you…
  • Explain that again…

Here’s an easy way to look at it is: Short questions will get you long answers, and long questions will get you short answers.

Your objective is to get the other person talking. Don’t waste this time by trying to ask complicated questions they won’t understand. Keep the questions short. This allows them to more easily process and share with you their views.

As you move through both the prospecting and selling phase, you can use the information you learned early on to help drive more in-depth questions later on.

One item to be aware of, regardless of how good you may feel about your questioning process, is never allow yourself to buy in 100% on what they’re telling you.

You still need to double-check everything.  It can be easy for a prospect to share with you something early on that in the big scheme of things isn’t the real issue. If you accept 100% of what they do tell you, the result is you can wind up going down a dead-end road.

The topic of prospecting is something I wrote about in my latest book Advisor Selling: The Art of Becoming a Trusted Advisor, which I co-authored with Matthew Hudson.  This blog post is just a small piece of what we talk about.  Feel free to check it out for yourself at Advisor Selling: The Art of Becoming a Trusted Advisor.

Get more sales tips in the RingLead ebook, Sphere of Influence Selling: An Inside Sales Approach to Crushing Your Quota.

This post originally appeared on The Sales Hunter Blog.

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