Is listening a differentiator?
It could be, if done the right way.
Last week, I met a client for coffee. Listening is part of any conversation but this time, I dug a little deeper with a few selected questions.
It is said that the secret to sales success isn’t just providing a solution, it’s asking the right question.
The right question reveals the right problem
The right kinds of questions are focused not just on your prospect’s need, but their deeper issues. These issues are often the kind that they don’t share with anyone. They’re the questions that keep your prospect up at night and nag at him during breakfast.
A surface question would be, “So, you realize that your current vendor isn’t giving you the service you want.”
A deeper question would be, “Why has this become a priority now?”
Do you see the difference?
The first question acknowledges that the prospect is in the market for a new solution but wouldn’t reveal much else.
The second question would give you a deeper view of why the prospect feels that it’s a more urgent need to change vendors. In the midst of that answer, you would discover much more: how the current vendor has terrible customer service, how long it takes to get a replacement part, how the current product doesn’t integrate well with the newer tech upgrades, etc.
You always want to tie in your questions with your prospect’s most pressing business issue.
The right question focuses on the right business issue
The most common business issues are:
- A need for increased revenue or market share
- Cost management
- Quality and reliability
- Increased effectiveness or productivity
- Happy customers
The more you can focus on these business issues, the better. These are the “make or break” areas for managers and executives. They don’t care about what color your widget is. What they do care about is if it’s going to either save them money, make money, or make their customers happy.
When I asked my client a few specific questions, his answers revealed much more than surface issues. I started to get at the heart of why he started his business, what he believed his strengths were, and how to leverage that in his marketing collateral.
I had spent time trying to nail down his value proposition in various ways, and it amazed me that BOOM!—it came out of asking him to share his heart about his business.
Don’t shy away from deeper questions
Getting someone to share their heart isn’t easy. In fact, in the business world this may come across as a little too “touchy-feely.”
But people buy with their heart and justify the purchase with their mind.
That’s why it’s important to have these deeper conversations.
It’s only in the midst of those conversations that you can discover what your prospect really wants, what is really important to them and what they’ll fight for if challenged.
To get to someone’s heart, you need to be gentle, but firm. You can’t pepper a prospect with questions, talk over him when he’s trying to answer what you just asked, interrupt his thoughts, or speak too quickly.
Questions that go to the heart are asked thoughtfully, with a softer tone, and not with a “hurry-up-I’ve-got-places-to-go” attitude.
When your prospect feels truly listened to and respected, he will go the extra distance for you. He’ll connect you with the key stakeholders in the sales process and get you the resources you need.
Because you sought to understand him.
And that made him feel good.
I know it sounds hokey. Even silly. I mean, we’re all grown-ups, right? But believe it or not, the more you can make someone feel good about dealing with you, the better your chances are for winning their business.
So remember, the deeper questions usually start like this:
“Have you ever experienced….?”
“Could you share with me why this has been moved to the front burner?”
“Another client told me that … do you find this to be true as well?”
“Would you anticipate a problem like…?”
After you ask the right questions, confirm your prospect’s answers. Sometimes they’ll add a few more insights that you’ll be able to use when presenting your solution.
Doing this just might set you apart from all the other competitors who are also pursuing your prospect. And in the end, it just might be your key differentiator.