Great questions create strong customer connections

Posted by Ellen Quackenbush on Jun 17, 2019, 10:33:51 AM
Ellen Quackenbush
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One of the top challenges sales leaders share is their Sellers' hesitancy to engage in early, prospecting conversations with customers. It is common for us to hear sales leaders lament that their "Sellers are great once the product discussion starts, but they will not engage in open-ended conversations where they don’t know the answers. They assume they must always play the role of the expert.”

We understand the challenges of shifting from a product-centric selling approach, but organizations that build strong questioning skills in their sales force create solid understanding of their customer’s business and identify opportunities to partner with their customer to solve business needs that matter. These Sellers learn to:

  • Remain curious. Curiosity enables Sellers to explore all the aspects of a customer’s business and identify the areas where they can make the biggest impact on the customer’s business results. If the Seller can also make a big impact on the career of their key champion, that’s an even bigger win.          

WHAT DEFINES A GREAT QUESTION?

Weak questions

Stronger questions

What keeps you up at night?

I read about [disruptive technology/emerging competitor]. What does this challenge mean for your business?

Is increasing operational efficiency important to you?

What have you tried to increase operational efficiency? What has worked? What has not?

Our solution could save you $XXX in staff costs. Would that be interesting?

If we could save you YY% of your staff’s time, how could you redeploy your team? How would that benefit your business?

Do your customers push back on price?

Where have Sellers been successful at resisting discounting? What happened?

  • Lead with open-ended questions. Sellers need to avoid the premature close. Use drill-down questions to explore the dimensions of the issue and identify opportunities to improve business results.          
  • Be comfortable with silence. Customers are busy and need time to think about the implications for their business. Sellers are often surprised at the new use cases and benefits that customers uncover when Sellers give customers time to connect the dots for their business. 
  • Look for connection points. Sellers must always be on the hunt for opportunities to improve their customer’s business performance. This can derive from an intimate understanding of your customer’s business process, or a more free-form process, driven by active listening of ideas for business improvement that your customer may offer.                                                                                     
  • Poll colleagues. Finally, validate and expand what you have heard with your colleagues. What business value conversations have they had with people in the customer’s organization? What did they learn? What questions do they wish they had asked? Use these insights to build a stronger understanding of your customer’s business and how you can use your products and services to improve their results.

Savvy Sellers are always working to improve their position with their customer’s business—to not only improve their business results today, but also to build an early perspective on how to partner to create new market opportunities that will make both the customer and supplier more profitable. This is the key to creating, retaining and growing profitable accounts.