Selling: What’s the Question?

Acronyms can be a good way to remember things.

SMART, for example, is an acronym for setting goals. It means that they should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. By making a word to represent a group of concepts, it sticks in our minds. It’s for that reason that the acronyms that we choose need to be positive ones.

In the sales industry, there is one that is obviously negative. It’s SPIN.

·         S stands for Situation: What is the context? What is happening right now?

·         P stands for Problem: What challenge is your prospect facing? What does he or she want to overcome?

·         I refers to Issues: What obstacles are there that might prevent the goal from being achieved?

·         N stands for Needs: What needs must be satisfied in order for the prospect to buy?

 

What’s the problem with this acronym? It’s the negativity associated with the word itself. It’s what you imagine when you hear the word spin. You form suspicions about what you’re being told.

The same thing happens when you name your sales’ formula – your sales model – spin. It causes you to suspect the veracity of your own words. It tells you that what you’re saying is an untruth; and the more you focus on it as you strive to follow that model, the more you’ll come to believe that you’re peddling porkies. It may even become something of a game to you: How much rubbish you can make your prospect believe.

At this point, it will be difficult even for you to separate fact from fiction. That’s because having persuaded yourself that it’s all spin, you’ll start having second thoughts about even those things that are true.

This is not the way to structure your sales call. You want to be in a positive frame of mind all the way through, from start to finish, and you want your prospect to sense it, too.

If your sales model is called SPIN, then you will come to believe that it is, and you’ll have a hard time persuading your client that it isn’t.

 

Does this mean that you should avoid acronyms? Not necessarily. They can be useful tools. What it does mean, however, is that you need to come up with a much better one if that’s the route you want to take.

 

How do you do that?

It’s to do with the questions you intend to ask.

One of the problems that people encounter with acronyms is that they think of something cute, and then try to force their concepts or steps into that model. That’s the wrong way around. You need to start with the steps and then see if an acronym is possible all the while recognizing that it might not be.

If it isn’t, then fuggedaboutit. You’ll only make matters worse by trying to drive a square peg into a round hole.

The goal isn’t to create an acronym. Instead, it’s to get your prospect to agree that your solution will meet his or her needs, regardless of what you call it.

 

So let’s start with the questions.

There are several different approaches to questions, as a quick search on the Internet will demonstrate. If one of them helps you more than the others, then use it. In our opinion, efficacy is more important than style, and so we recommend that you focus on only two types of questions: information and diagnostic.

When you ask informational questions, it’s because you want to learn something or you want to learn more. When you ask diagnostic questions, it’s because you want to zero in on something. All too frequently, people will ask the latter before they’re ready. We call this jumping to conclusions.

You must ask as many information questions as is necessary to understand your prospect’s problem before you’re in a position to diagnose anything.

 

Have you ever assumed you knew the answer only to discover that you were completely wrong?

It’s impossible to prescribe a ratio of information to diagnostic questions because every situation is different; but perhaps the 80/20 principal would be appropriate – that 80% of the questions you ask should be in order to learn more, while no more than 20% are about honing in to the heart of the issue. That’s because it will be much easier for your prospects to buy from you if they feel that you’ve led them to a solution rather than rushed into it.

 

What are some good information questions?

·         What are the two biggest headaches you have in your business right now? What is always on your mind? What distracts you from the work that you’re trying to do because you keep thinking about it?

·         What is holding you back? What keeps getting in the way?

·         What do you think will happen if this situation continues? Where will the company be this time next year?

 

The answers to these questions will not only tell you a lot about your prospect; they will also stir up his / her pain.

 

What would be some good diagnostic questions?

·         What would you like to be doing instead?

·         Where would you like your business to be in a year’s time?

·         If you change this situation, what would it mean to you?

 

The answers to these questions not only tell you what your prospect sees as success, but they also give him / her hope.

 

Hope is most effective when it is juxtaposed with pain.

When you offer your solution too soon, you’re in effect providing hope without pain. This weakens your position. If you do it enough, it will make you look desperate. Maybe you are, but that won’t help you to sell. Prospects want to buy from people who are already successful.

At some point in the meeting, you will get clear signs that the prospect is either ready to buy or not. It could be that you’ll need to ask for the sale. If you do, don’t make it sound corny. Get away from that predictable close. You know what it sounds like. Fix it.

If the person isn’t ready to buy, then don’t make him / her feel uncomfortable by trying to force it. All that work you’ve just put in may pay off later. You don’t want to burn a partially completed bridge. 

 

 

If you want to learn more about asking effective sales questions – then email me today

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Bob Hayward speaks at NRG Networks Swindon

Speaking at NRG events is always a pleasure - this session is about price resistant selling