If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. People don’t like to be “sold to”. They want to “buy”.
And while this may sound very contradictory, as a sales person your job is not to sell. Rather it’s to persuade a prospect that you have a solution to an issue they’re facing, and that you’re the person/organisation they should trust to solve it. Remember, “no issue” equals no sale. Now, that doesn’t mean that your prospect knows there’s an issue. If the issue isn’t obvious, it’s your job to highlight it and move them to take action. And the best way to do this? Ask questions.
Now there are probably more questioning methods than I can poke a stick at… but here’s one we personally use and find extremely effective. I’ll go through the technique, but first…
There are two primary principles that underlie any successful sales process.
Pain and Gain
You must elicit the pain: something your prospect wants to avoid. And provide the gain: something they really want instead. Then your job is to show them how to move from pain to gain using your solution AND have them buy in emotionally.
So let’s start with pain. We’ll use a model I call DICTATE. Each letter represents a useful question you can ask – in order!
Details: What’s the pain? Find out the details of what the pain is. Why should they move now rather than wait for some yet undefined event? Get all the issues out on the table.
“Tell me a little bit about what’s going on with <whatever the issue is that you’re here to talk about>.”
“Interesting… can you tell me more about that.”
“Summarise for me the current impact of this problem.”
“Who/what else is being impacted? What else?”
Interval: How long have they had this issue? Your goal is to keep drilling – remember, no pain and they won’t take action. Remember, pain could actually be an aspiration. Some goal they want to achieve but haven’t been able to for whatever reason.
“That’s interesting – can you tell me how long this has been going on?”
“Really… this has been going on for two years?”
Cost: Many people can’t directly answer this in money terms. You ask this because you want to highlight to them what it’s cost them emotionally. How do they feel not having achieved, made the money they wanted etc.
“Do you mind if I ask you how much not solving this has cost you?”
“What kind of aggravation has this whole thing caused you?”
“What are you feeling?”
Try and Fix: You want them to acknowledge they haven’t been able to fix the issue. And that’s why they’re talking to you!
“What steps have you taken to try and fix it?”
Action (rather than inaction): Your goal is to really crank up the pain. Your enemy is status quo. If they’re happy with where they’re at, or the cost of doing something is actually greater than the cost of staying where they are, they won’t buy.
“Do you mind if I ask you what would happen if you don’t fix the problem?”
“Imagine it’s six months from now, a year from now, and nothing has changed. What are the implications?”
“What’s at stake for you to lose or gain?”
Talking Less: You have two ears, one mouth! You should only be talking 20% of the time – your customer should be doing most of the talking in response to questions you ask.
Emotions: Future pacing – the most important component. We all buy on emotion and then seek to justify our decisions with logic (either to ourselves, or someone else). So it is essential you help your prospect actually feel what it would be like to own your product. And the best way is to future pace. They’ve told you what they’d like to achieve by using your product/service. So you know what they want. These are an example of words you’d use:
“Imagine you’ve bought the [product/service] and it’s a year from now. You’re sitting in your [office/home] looking back at everything you’ve achieved because of your decision today to move ahead. How does it feel?”
Now… shut up and wait! Do it right and you’ll notice a major shift in their demeanour. Have them try on the solution by delving down and asking them to describe in more detail what they’re seeing, hearing, feeling in their imagination.This is one of the most powerful things you can do in persuasion. Remember, people buy on emotion and your job is to get them to feel and relate good stuff back to your product/service so they want to buy.