Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Stir the Pot a Bit to Engage Your Prospects

July 30, 2013

Are you dancing around the hard questions to avoid potential negative reactions? You may be missing some opportunities.

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As a sales professional, you’re constantly sizing people up, gauging their reaction to what you’re saying. That’s good, and it’s part of what makes you effective. But are you showing too much caution?

You should be concerned about being too intrusive. But consider the possibility that by staying at arm’s length, you’re not getting at the heart of your customers’ needs, the problems they’re trying to solve.

The lions’ share of your prospects want to know one of three things:

  • Can you help improve the quality, enjoyment and/or productiveness of my personal or business life?
  • Can you help me save money or time?
  • Can you make me more successful in my own job?

You can’t answer those questions unless you know what their struggles are and can envision how your own products can contribute to a positive outcome.

Numerous Benefits

By asking deeper, more direct questions, you’ll accomplish several things. You’ll keep the conversation going. Get information. Build rapport and a better connection. Help your customers go beyond the standard salesperson-prospect patter to get at needs and difficulties that they may have been hesitant to admit.

Emotion has a great deal to do with a successful sales process, as you well know. Rattling off a list of product specifications and pushing too much will make your customers feel like it’s all about you. But by focusing on them, you make them feel as if you truly do care about improving their lot.

Which, of course, any good salesperson – or any good person, period – does. Yes, you’ll benefit if you make a sale. But the process of getting there should have its focus on how your product can fit into your customers’ lives. And asking the right questions is a part of that progression.

Some Samples

Here are several ideas to get you started:

  • What can I/we do to help make your job/life easier?
  • Can you tell me something about your professional/personal objectives for the next six months?
  • Could you talk about how I might better support you?
  • What’s been the highlight of the last year for you, professionally or personally? Can we find a way to repeat that success this next year?
  • When was the last time you absolutely could not solve a problem?
  • What are we/could we/have we do/done to help you better meet your goals?
  • What is the thing you like least about dealing with salespeople?
  • You’re currently giving some of your business to our competition. Can I ask you to talk about what you like better about their approach/products/customer service?
  • Would you be willing to serve as a reference for us/write a testimonial? If you did, what kinds of things would you say?

When you feel comfortable enough with a prospect or customer to start asking the tough questions, you’ll know when to pull back. Yes, you risk making a customer uncomfortable, and you should only take this step if you feel comfortable.Todd Martin 072313 image 2

But you may also reap many positive benefits. You might catch minor problems with your company’s offerings before they become worse. Your customers may actually appreciate your obvious interest in their own success. And it will expand your own understanding of how your company’s products are helping your customers, which can mushroom into enhanced relationships with other customers.

Stock images courtesy of

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