STEERS: Leverages questions to navigate win-win sales conversations

STEERS: Leverages questions to navigate win-win sales conversations

“The last place”, thought J, “where you would run into G. This is Falcon Mall not the Central Library”

But there, was G lost in studying newly arrived electronic gadgets. The two friends couldn’t have been more different. G was the quiet, thoughtful, intellectual sort while ‘Magnet’, as J was known, the back-slapping, hand-pumping bundle of extroverted energy. J wasn’t the one to wait. “Hi G” he hailed, startling G out of his reverie “How’s you?” The friends got talking

J: “I see you all masked up and gloved. First foray into the real world, after the lock down was relaxed?”

G: “Even for an introverted, privacy lover like me, the long incarceration at home was testing my nerves. Decided to step out for a slice of real life. The mall is deserted though”

J: “Yes G, it will take months for the fears to recede and life as we know to come back to real normal. What are you up to these days G?”

G: “I teach information science up at the University. What’s your charmed life? Into acting in movies? I always thought you’ll make a great movie star”

J: “Thanks for that compliment G. No, I’m not in the movies, though I would have loved it. I’m heading sales for a mid-sized company that pioneers game based learning. Professional stuff aside, how’s your family?”

G: “You know my wife since you were at our wedding. We now have two boys, 9 and 6”

J: “That’s wonderful G. If they take after you, I’m sure they must be having Mensa level IQs. What are their interests?”

G: “They are good at academics. But my wife and I keep pushing them to be active at outdoor sport. Challenge is that they seem to be spending a lot of time on screen based activity”

J: “That’s nothing big, G. It’s typical of all post millennial Gen Z kids these days. Any other specific concerns?”

G: “I feel that much of their screen based activity is a mindless waste of time. I wish that time is put to better use. I was in fact looking for some electronic gadgets that could engage them creatively. If we can’t get them off the gadgets, at least let them learn something out of it”

J: “G, I guess, I could be of some help there. My company produces console based games that promote learning and cognitive growth in kids. We have a game that lets children explore a coral reef virtually to learn all about oceans and how they work. Or one with a role play that teaches them good nutrition and personal hygiene practices. Can I send my guys over to your place tomorrow for a demo? They are all trained in Covid compliant demo practices. So you needn’t have any concerns about strangers visiting your home. I would need your current address though”

G: “Will give that to you in a minute, once we have exchanged our phone numbers. By the way J, I take it that you are good at closing sales, right?”

J: “What makes you say that G?”

G: “Because you just did, Joe!”

The friends roared in laughter

The well-kept secret of great sales conversations begins with a Q.

If there is one thing that encourages conversation, it is Questions. The right questions can get your buyer to open up, share information and provide feedback. Questions also help understand the buyer and his need which is at the heart of every sale. Questions can be used to build productive conversations in 3 simple steps:

Step 1 - You can build rapport with Open Neutral Questions (ONQs). 3 sure fire topics for ONQs are – Self, Family and Job. These are also the Thinking Questions. J in our story was very quick to use this technique.

Step 2 - Listen with empathy and care, use the answers to ONQs to gather information and ask Open Leading Questions (OLQs).These are Exploring Questions. They enable you to identify the need. With some more OLQs you could narrow down and confirm the problem to be solved.

Step 3 - Then all you need to do next is to clarify and seal the deal with Closed Questions (CQs), which are Confirming Questions. J went from an innocuous OLQ (“Any other concerns?”) to CQ (“Can I send my guys over?”) in one quick, smooth leap. That’s the stuff of sales champions!

This approach of smartly using questions to create great sales conversations and take control of the conversation flow is called the Funnel Technique

Resilient sales professionals always manage to find sales at the end of the (conversational) funnel

Possible solution for the story situation – What was the magic that helped Magnetic J to create a sale out of a casual encounter with an old friend? The secret is in the Conversational Funnel tool he employed (See Anchor Practice below)

Anchor Practice: ‘Funnel Technique’ of asking questions

Funnel technique is a powerful tool to encourage the flow of sales conversations and steer it towards closure.

This funnel is not the same as its wider known cousin – The Sales Funnel, which is often a forecasting technique.

The funnel technique of asking questions has the following steps :

Build rapport (ONQs) -> Gather information (ONQs) -> Identify need (OLQs) -> Narrow confirmation (OLQs) -> Clarify (CQs) -> Reconfirm (CQs) -> Close

So, at the end of every questioning funnel there is a sale waiting for you to close!

Pause to reflect:  "Questions help understand the buyer and his need which is at the heart of every sale".

Action Question: “How can you use incorporate the Funnel Technique of asking questions to create memorable sales conversations and close more sales?

Related Readings: Mercuri Insight Document on Understanding Customer needs … The power of asking questions

Takeaway Quote:  “One good question can give rise to several layers of answers, can inspire decades long search for solutions, can generate whole new fields of inquiry and can prompt changes in entrenched thinking ” - Stuart Firestein

About the series:  This is the 78th in a series of 100 Posts that seek to build your #Sales Resilience ... as an individual salesperson, as a sales team, and as a sales organization. Because a Resilient India needs Resilient Sales.


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78. STEERS: Leverages questions to navigate win-win sales conversations

What is the well-kept secret of great sales conversations? And how does it work?

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