Questions are the answer when it comes to making sales

Questions are the answer when it comes to making sales

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Graham McGregor uses a house sale to show how asking questions can be a valuable marketing tool.

Graham McGregor uses a house sale to show how asking questions can be a valuable marketing tool.

OPINION: Imagine you went to see a medical specialist because you felt that something might be not quite right with your heart.

So you walk into the medical specialist’s office and he has a big smile on his face.

“Glad to see you Graham” he says. “Let me tell you about the wonderful special we have this week on heart medication. You are going to love it.”

How would you feel about this medical specialist if they did this to you?

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You would feel shocked that he would try to recommend something before he even knew what was wrong with you.

You would feel cheated and you would not take his advice seriously.

The mistake this medical specialist made is obvious.

They did not take the time to ask you questions and do a proper diagnosis.

If they had taken the time to do this you would be far more likely to take their recommendation seriously.

It’s exactly the same in selling.

Our prospects want to feel that we understand their situation well and that we will recommend a product or service that is genuinely helpful.

The only way we can understand a prospect’s situation is by asking questions and listening carefully to the answers.

In all selling you have to find out two things from the prospect: Where are they right now? And where do they want to be?

Once you know this, you can focus on the gap between where your prospect is now and where they would like to be.

Until you have identified a gap and your prospect is willing to find a way to close that gap it is a waste of time presenting your solution.

Once you recognise this gap between where you are and where you want to be you can take steps to close it.

You can’t leap into a sales presentation until you are certain that your prospect recognises the gap and is willing to find a way to close it.

The fastest way to get your prospects to see the gap is to ask good questions and then to listen.

I had an embarrassing lesson in how well questions can work when I was making a sales presentation to a sales manager many years ago.

The sales manager had a team of 30 salespeople, and I was telling him about how good my sales training programme was and how well it worked.

Unfortunately I was in love with my own voice at the time and had not taken the time to ask very many questions.

I was talking, talking, talking and my sales presentation was going nowhere fast.

I had a new salesperson with me at the time, and I was supposed to be teaching him what to do.

This new salesperson was a lot smarter than me.

He could see I was making no headway, so he waited till I paused for breath.

Then he asked a simple question to the sales manager.

“Barry, if you were somehow able to improve the sales results of your sales team by at least 10 per cent over the next six months; what would that mean to you?”

The sales manager immediately pulled out a calculator and began to work out some figures.

“That would be worth at least $75,000 to me” he said.

And for the first time he started to look interested in what we had to sell.

In another ten minutes we had a signed order for a large sales training programme for his team.

All from the power of one good question that helped the sales manager to see the gap between where he was now and where he wanted to be.

There are two types of questions you can ask any potential new customer or client for your product or service.

You can ask potential clients ‘cheap’ questions or you can ask them ‘expensive’ questions.

Cheap questions are the type of question that 95 per cent of business people or sales people will ask when they meet a potential client for the first time.

They are cheap because they are common and ordinary.


Infometrics economists talk about the housing market.

Here are some examples of ‘cheap questions’.

Imagine you are considering buying a new home and you are talking with a real estate sales person.

What are the normal questions they would ask you?

What is your budget? What is your time frame? What are you interested in? Do you have to sell first? What other properties have you looked at?

There are two problems with asking ‘cheap questions’ like these.

First of all, you come across as being just like all the other sales people they speak to.

Secondly, cheap questions do not add value to a new client and make it easier for them to decide what they really want to buy and why they want to buy it.

Expensive questions on the other hand are quite different. They are also very rarely asked by most sales people. And they add huge value to your clients.

That’s why asking ‘expensive questions’ can be a super effective marketing strategy.

Here are some examples of ‘expensive questions’.

Let’s use the same example of buying a new home.

Here are some more helpful questions a real estate sales person could ask you.

What type of home do you live in right now? What do you like most about living there? What are some of the things you would like to change about this home? Why is that important to you? If you could wave a magic wand and live in the ideal home, what are some of the most important things it would have? How do you mean?

The best thing about asking ‘expensive’ questions is that it’s extremely helpful for your clients.

By the time they answer a number of expensive questions they are a lot clearer in their own minds about the outcomes they want to enjoy (in this case) from their next home.

You are also in a much better position to be able to help your client get the ideal outcome they want.

Isn’t that a simple way to improve every sales presentation you make?

The right questions can often be the answer to easy sales.

Action Exercise

In your sales activities I highly recommend you take time to ask questions to help your potential client see the ‘gap’ between where they are right now and where they could be with your help.

And look at the types of questions that you ask in a sales presentation.

Are they ‘cheap questions’ that add no value to your clients?

Or are they ‘expensive questions’ that add huge value and position you as being both different and special compared to other sales people selling a similar product or service?

Graham McGregor is a marketing adviser. You can get his free 129-page marketing guide, ‘The Plan B Sales Solution,’ here.


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