Guiding the Evaluation Process Using Sales Questions
When was the last time you were on a car lot to shop for a car?
You and I both know you weren’t there by accident. You were there for a reason and more than likely, you planned it all out.
However, the first question most salespeople ask is: “Can I help you?”
That question is a brutal sales starter, because the buyer answers the same way each time: “Nope, just looking.”
A more effective question might be: “Have you ever been here before?”
Now, the buyer has to stop and think about where they are before responding either yes or no.
If the buyer says “yes,” the salesperson can reply, “Okay then! You would probably like to know about this sale, those cars that are on clearance, and these new vehicles over here.”
But if the buyer says, “No, I’ve never been here before,” the salesperson could respond with, “Okay then! You would probably like to know about this sale, those cars that are on clearance, and these new vehicles over here.”
You see, it doesn’t matter which response the buyer gives. If the salesperson has a predictable process with directional questions, he or she has the superior position tactically.
Asking questions like “Can I help you” actually shows that the salesperson thinks the questioning process is only for them.
However, asking, “Have you ever been here before” actually gives the salesperson control of the conversation and gives them the opportunity to direct the conversation where it needs to go.
That’s the difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson. A good salesperson thinks they’re asking questions for their process. A great salesperson uses sales questions not just for their process, but also to guide the buyer’s process, thus turning the evaluation process into a tactical advantage.
Back to the Doctor’s Office for the Evaluation Process
Let’s head back to the doctor’s office for an example. If you recall, we used a visit to the doctor’s office as a process model for diagnosis and prescription. The second step in that process was the evaluation process.
A patient may go in for a checkup thinking they’re healthy, but their assessment may be flawed. Any number of ailments could be sending signals that something is not right. But the untrained patient will either miss or misunderstand them. A good doctor will ask questions to guide the patient through the evaluation process and reconsider their initial assessment. They’ll realize, “Maybe I’m not as healthy as I need to be.”
On the flipside, maybe a patient has some signs leading them to think they have a serious health issue. The doctor’s questions can lead them in the direction of thinking, “Hey, other people are experiencing the same symptoms and it’s something easily correctable. Maybe, I’m actually healthy.”
In both cases, the good doctor, or the medical team, is creating a gap between where a patient is now, including where they perceive they are now, and where the desired situation is. If the gap is very wide, they create a solution to get from one point to the other. Essentially, that’s what a good salesperson does as well.
Sales Questions Are Your Tools to Build Bridges in the Evaluation Process
At this point, tactical sales managers will tell their team to, “ask open-ended sales questions” to drive the evaluation process. But recognize that you have more tools at your disposal. Your evaluation process will include open-ended sales questions, closed-ended sales questions, essay questions, multiple choice, fill in the blank, and true/false questions. The key here is to create the environment in the prospect’s mind to ask the right sales questions.
Also note that as salespeople, we ask questions to understand the buyer’s current reality. We want to know the implications of taking immediate action and the consequences of procrastination. Overall, we want to highlight the issues involved, and the payout when those issues are resolved.
If the salesperson asks questions the right way, the buyer may provide suggestions on how to best present a solution to them. They may even give the salesperson their version of the ultimate solution.
Here’s an analogy that will help frame this. Envision a fast moving river. One bank represents the buyer’s current situation. It’s where they are now. The other bank is the buyer’s desired situation. That’s where they want to be. And the river represents the obstacles facing the buyer. The purpose of your sales questions is to build a bridge from their current situation to their desired situation.
As salespeople, we are tasked with increasing the buyer’s awareness in these areas. Once they do, they’re open to being persuaded about anything, whether it be vehicles, financial planning, or their health.
In the next posts, we’ll review the various types of sales questions as well as moving the sale forward by asking the right questions.
For more ideas on using sales questions in the evaluation process, download Lance Tyson’s book, Selling Is An Away Game available in the Kindle format on Amazon.