If the answer is 42, then do you need to ask big sales questions?
Yes you do … unless you can wait several million years!
Ever read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams? Very funny science fiction book, which makes a brilliant point about the importance of asking the right sales question.
The book is all about the adventures in space of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman who is the only survivor following the destruction of Earth to build outer space’s version of a six lane highway. Anyway, two of the characters Fook and Lunkwill create a huge computer called Deep Thought to tell them the the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. However, the computer says it will take it seven and a half million years to work that out.
Fast track to millions of years later, Deep Thought tells Fook and Lunkwill’s ancestors that the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is…….
Now to say that the two descendants are devastated is a slight understatement. Deep Thought, much to their disappointment suggests that the answer is 42 because they have never actually known what the question is.
The book is actually littered with assumptions because everyone assumes that the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (the guide within the book) is right. The only one of them to question anything is Arthur Dent.
My whole point is:
Questions are THE most important part of any process, but especially the sales process
How many times have you asked a prospective client what you thought was a really great question, but been incredibly disappointed with the answer? It tends to throw you off balance as you start wondering what to say next.
The problem with being knocked off balance is that “waffle mode” kicks in to action. Absolute rubbish starts to dribble from your tongue and the meeting nosedives in to the dark depths of mediocrity.
Worse still is when you begin panicking and desperation sets in as you hear yourself start to offer discounts off what you do. This is despite knowing deep down that you still haven’t established if your prospect has a need!
I think we have all been guilty from time to time of taking what we first see and hear as being the truth. Thinking that the first thing that comes out of the prospects mouth is actually what they truly believe. A bit like the characters in the book when they believed that the humungous computer that they built would know the answer to the question that they never really asked!
“To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question” Ursula K Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
So what can you do to keep focused on finding your prospect’s need, requirement and more often than not, the problem that is causing them real pain.
Prevention is better than cure
Preparation is key to succeeding at anything, but in terms of getting your approach to questioning right then these simple steps will help.
- Are they the MAN? – Speaking with the decision maker is always going to achieve a better outcome. The person at the top of the food chain usually suffers the most pain and sleepless nights trying to solve the issues they face. However, be mindful of any influencers who surround and by their very nature, influence the decision maker.
- Write down your questions in advance of the meeting – Even if you have asked these questions a hundred times, don’t be tempted to miss this out. We are only human and even those with a Mensa membership will forget to ask the big questions.
- Listen – Actively listening is one of the most important parts of the questioning phase of the sales process. It takes continual practice to get right, but when done well it is a probably more important than presentation skills.
- Take notes – Writing down short clear notes as you listen to the prospect will help you to summarise and clarify your understanding of their pain. Again, don’t be tempted to wing it by not getting your pen and paper out.
- Don’t interrupt – Ever been told by your mother that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? I know it’s hard, but let them finish their point first. If not then you run the risk of appearing rude and worst still, missing out on uncovering their need.
I really love this phase of the sales process as it’s when you get to find out lots of useful information that will help you close the business. However, if you miss out on learning your prospects pain, then winning the business will be so much harder.
So if this is an area that you struggle with, then access my free sales training to help you ask great sales question to generate more opportunities. I promise it will make sure your approach to questioning is more effective at setting you up to win a lot more than you fail.