As seen on P. William Clarke .com – 

In the game of sales, trying to please your prospect can be an overstated objective. There is a difference between pleasing your customer and having them pleased with your product or service.   Still, salespeople attempt to answer prospects questions hoping to provide that small piece of information that will get them hot on what you are selling.

This is kind of like the shotgun approach. Here’s how it works: You put multiple projectiles in a gun, aim down range to where the targets are set up and play the odds that you hit one of them. The opposite of the shotgun approach is the rifle method. One projectile aimed at a precise target. I think you can see where I am going with this.

In an attempt to leave no stone unturned, salespeople often employ the shotgun method.   This includes answering everything that even sounds like a question.   This can be undermining the sales process because the question the prospect is asking is often not the real question.

Let me give you a non-sales scenario to illustrate a point. A teenage country boy asks his father, “Don’t you have to go into town this evening to pick up some supplies, Dad?” Father says, “Well, I think I’ll wait ‘till morning now, its getting late.” The son replies, “Wouldn’t it be better if we went tonight so I could get started first thing in the morning on the chores?”

Ok, what’s really going on here? The real question is, “Dad, can you take me to town so I can see my girlfriend?” It’s typical to ask several setup questions before revealing the true intent. If you get in the habit of answering every question your customer asks, you will never identify why its being asking. Instead, begin with a follow-up question of you own, like, “Any reason you were curious about the xyz?”

This dynamic stems from the fact that you have been programmed since childhood to answer questions without asking why. Now, I’m asking you to undo all that and start to ask yourself, “Why is this prospect asking me this question?” If you don’t know the answer, maybe you should ask the prospect.

Let’s turn to the second most problematic sales issue surrounding questions: answering the unasked question. Often times, prospects utter statements and/or comments. Salespeople often confuse these statements with questions. For example, a customer may look at a particular feature of a product and say, “That’s interesting.” The typical salesman begins to explain the feature, never discovering what the customer felt was “interesting”. A better approach would be to simply ask, “Interesting Mr. Prospect, in what way?” This allows the customer to expand on what he defines as “interesting” and will often lead to how that feature will impact his buying decision.

Another area where salespeople slip up is in handling objections. For example, the customer says “Boy, that’s a lot of money.” Here, the salesperson jumps in and starts trying to justify the price or reduces the price to prompt the customer to buy.

Reducing the price only diminishes the perceived value, while justifying the price may be unnecessary. After all, the customer has not stated he wouldn’t pay that much to own it. A better solution is to clarify the statement with a question. For example, “That’s a lot of money,” can be handled by responding with a gentle, “Which means?” or “And?” This prompts the customer to explain exactly what they mean, forcing them to reveal how much they intent to spend.

On the other hand, the prospect may clarify by intimating that they will not buy based on the cost or have a competitive solution with a lower threshold investment. You can then find out if it is a budgetary concern or a perceived value concern. The budget problem may force you to show them another product, while the perceived value problem tells you that they may have looked at similar product elsewhere. If so, just state, “You must feel that way for a reason.” Your prospect has the floor to explain and you can figure out where to go from here.

Look for the real question. You may have to peel the layers back a bit to get there, but once you have the right information you can move the sale in the right direction. Be mindful of prospect statements and get your prospect to convert statements into conversations or specific questions. And, don’t get Caught Answering Unasked Questions.

All the best,

P. William Clarke

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