What customers expect from salespeople today is different than yesterday. Simply being good at developing relationships and having a commanding knowledge of your product are necessary but not sufficient.
As a matter of fact, when it comes to being a purveyor of product knowledge it is well to remember that currently customers have a substantial understanding of your products and your competitors before they even engage you in the buying process.
Today what differentiates you from your competitors is your ability to bring a consultative mindset to the engagement. Customers expect you to help them go where they need to go by providing fresh ideas and new insights.
So, if you thought asking questions was a key skill set five years ago, just double the importance quotation you assigned to the requirement. Becoming skillful at asking questions is more important than ever for achieving sales success and it is not as easy to become skillful.
Meet the asking questions challenge – 4 best practices
- Take accountability for excellence. Most salespeople have the opportunity to attend company-sponsored sales training every couple of years. More then likely asking questions is a topic on the agenda. However, today formal learning cannot be an episodic. Continuous learning is required. So if you want to develop the required level of excellence you need to take personal responsibility for continuous learning via all the sources that are available like – online learning courses, blogs, and skilled colleagues.
- Up the preparation game. Asking questions is not a content-free exercise. It is about more than knowing the difference between open and closed questions. Time needs to be spent developing an understanding of the customer industry and a high level of knowledge regarding the company’s specific challenges and opportunities.
- Get serious about pre-call planning. Using questions skillfully in a consultative-level business conversation is something that is hard to do for the first time in real-time. It makes sense in your pre-call planning to write down the three or four key questions you want to integrate into your conversation. Think about what you want to ask and how you are going to ask it.
- Solicit feedback. Practice does not make perfect – it’s about practice and feedback. Search out opportunities to get feedback on your questioning skills – from your manager on coaching calls and from your team members on joint calls. Optimize your opportunities for getting better.
Regardless of how good you are at asking questions in sales calls – our best suggestion is put time and effort into getting better. And, in doing so remember asking questions is about more than finding out information; it is a powerful way to help the person on the other side table to think and act creatively.