Sell With Questions

Always Be Closing Glengarry Glen Ross

I’m in sales.

shocked man

Sales? Me? No!

I’ve had to come to terms with this.

And, chances are, you are in sales too. 

Sales has a bad rap.

Sales can seem like a four letter word. It has a connotation of manipulation. That you need to use sleazy persuasion techniques to succeed.

In the online world, you do see long sales letters, email sequences or webinars full of Robert Cialdini’s Influence strategies:

  • reciprocation – give a gift so people feel indebted to you
  • social proof – get more likes on Facebook or testimonials on your webpage
  • consistency – get people to make a public commit or take a small action so the larger sale aligns with previous commitment
  • liking – be physically attractive, similar to customers or give complements
  • authority – get doctors or experts to agree with your claims
  • scarcity – reduce access to increase exclusivity “don’t miss your chance!”

And at the occasional used car lot you can see high pressure techniques Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross would be proud of. 

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Sales has changed

To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink describes how sales have changed. It’s more about motivating people to take action. As long as you believe that action is good for the person you are trying to motivate, sales should not feel sleazy.

The old manipulative selling strategies are less effective anyway. When companies or individuals screw someone over, it’s easy to post a negative review online for all your potential future customers to see. 

So rather than thinking about all the potential objectives and how to overcome them. Or spending hours crafting perfect sales letters. Or memorizing sales scripts. I like to do this instead.

I listen.

Plan what to ask versus what to say before a sales conversation.

People don’t like receiving help from those that ‘don’t get’ their problem. 

If I walked over to the University of Texas math department, knocked on a professor’s door and tried to give him advice on the proof he was working on, he’d try to get out of the conversation as fast as possible. He would then install a peephole on his office door to make sure he could avoid me in the future. 

But, if I somehow managed to ask the professor an insightful question that showed I understood the problem he was working on, he might start to listen. 

Asking shows your competency. Asking questions also helps people feel understood. The last person I hired asked me questions about my website. I shared my frustrations. He empathized and offered solutions to my frustrations. I wasn’t planning on hiring a website developer. But he asked the right questions. 

Asking questions will do other magical things too. The right question can make sure you are attempting to solve the right problem. Questions can also let the person solve their own problem. Which is much more powerful. 

Questions I Ask

As a productivity coach, here are questions I find myself asking: 

  • What are you working on?
  • What are you trying to achieve?
    • By when?
  • What results have you been producing in the past?
  • What is working for you?
  • What’s your biggest challenge right now?
  • What difficulties does that create for you?
  • How does that show up in your business?
  • How will you know if you’ve achieved the goal? 
    • What will people say?
    • How will you feel?
    • What results will you see?

What are some questions you could ask today?

Plan what to ask versus what to say before a sales conversation. It will save time, be more effective and make you and your clients will enjoy the process.