It’s always rewarding to close a sale and immediately have the new client sign the documents to secure the sale. No matter how many years in the business, this always feels good. We all have stories about new customers who have “fallen into our lap” and bought quickly. For some reason, we can’t seem to forget the great rush that occurs from these new clients. I’m here to say that as good as the rush might be when we allow a sale to occur too quickly, we wind up leaving money on the table.
When beginning to talk with a new customer, the salesperson and the customer invariably have the intent of doing so with a specific product in mind. It may be any number of products you sell. The initial interest expressed by the customer always guides the discussion. Once the discussion turns to a specific product, the customer’s focus becomes even more closed to any other products. The real danger comes when the customer agrees to buy. At that moment, the customer feels the process is over, and their mind moves to something else, usually something totally unrelated to your business or products.
To avoid a situation like this, the salesperson needs to ask the necessary exploratory questions early to determine the customer’s other needs. By asking exploratory questions early, you are able to assess which additional products may interest the customer. If you wait to ask these types of questions until after the initial sale is complete, you will always be behind. This is the whole principle of not closing too quickly. You need and want enough time to explore and determine all of the customer’s needs.
What are exploratory questions? Exploratory questions generally are open-ended questions that get the customer talking. Questions may include asking the customer about their job and the types of benefits they receive in the job. A question of this nature is non-threatening and is likely to start a conversation in which the customer shares about the dynamics of their work, particularly the level of security they do or don’t have in their position. When a salesperson can get the customer talking and, more importantly, talking about items about which they do not feel secure, the greater the likelihood the salesperson can identify additional products that will alleviate some of the customer’s pain.
Whether in a face-to-face meeting or over the phone, the salesperson must take the time to engage the customer early on. The key with the early questions is to not blatantly ask, “What other products or services would you be interested in?” Asking a new customer this type of a question before a relationship has been established runs the risk of alienating the prospect. Plain and simple, they will view you as a “hard-sell salesperson.”
Engage the customer in a non-threatening manner and that customer will be more likely to share information without throwing up defensive barriers. Keep your exploratory questions short and simple, so that that the customer can do most of the talking. Customers are much more willing to share key information in short segments rather than long drawn-out responses that more-complicated questions dictate.
Due to the wide number of issues the typical customer faces today, it is a privilege to be a salesperson in today’s economy. When you are able to assist a customer with multiple solutions, the customer feels at ease, and you have truly done your job. Building a solid relationship instead of going for the quick close just makes good sense when you are striving to build a long-term sales career. Begin today to incorporate exploratory questions into your sales process as a way of engaging the customer.