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The Most Powerful, Yet Least Used, Sales Questions

The Most Powerful, Yet Least Used, Sales Questions

Sam Manfer

Statistics show that more than 75% of sales calls end without the sales person asking for commitment. Believe it or not most customers buy rather than sales people asking for the order.

The purchasing discussion usually goes something like this:

“Send me a proposal.” Then there’s some follow-up and the customer agrees or not. The sales person never really knows why.

Another common occurrence:

“What’s the price?” Then there’s some discussion and or negotiation, and finally the customer says, “Okay, I’ll buy it,” in so many words.

Now commitment doesn’t mean only asking for the order. It is much broader than that. Commitment can be for the next meeting, the prospects support, and/or getting back to you within a certain time, etc. Commitment is the essence of moving the sale forward. Conversely, refusal to give commitment is the biggest signal that the sale is in distress. Yet, asking for commitment is a rarity.

What’s rarely said—in any combination of words—is:

“You seem pleased. Can we agree that you will purchase today?” or “Can I have your commitment that you will support me on this so that we can move forward to the next level of buying authority?” Sales people have trouble getting those words out of their mouths – fear of rejection or fear they are being pushy.

Asking for commitment is one of the toughest questions for any sales person. It is the most important ability for a successful salesperson. However, to make commitment questions happen one must prepare. First, the salesperson must determine what commitments can be possible from the upcoming sales meeting — the best, the worst, and something in between. Second, the salesperson must draft the question on paper and keep it visible during the sales call. This will serve as a tongue loosener and it will also serve as a constant reminder to, “Ask Me” as the call moves towards conclusion. This can not be done in your head. It must be written.

Preparation of commitment questions is a key element to every sales call plan, and every sales call should have its own written plan. Without this preparation the question will be neglected and commitments will not be attained. What will happen is the sales person will lose control. The customer will decide when they want to let you know and what they want to let you know. This puts them in control and extends the sales cycle.

Question 2

The next and far more difficult and even lesser used question is handling ambivalence, objections, or “No”. In other words, the question that begs to be asked when the prospect is not going along. When this happens, most salespeople keep promoting the product or service. Objections are worse – they usually try to argue in an effort to changes the prospects minds. Both these tactics tend to work poorly.

When the customer is ambivalent or says “No”, the tough question that should be asked is, “You seem uninterested (or hesitant or concerned…) Tell me, how come?” If the salesperson makes it a point to listen, this query will uncover the prospect’s real issues that need to be resolved.

Then s/he needs to know how to resolve them. However, the sales person will never know how to resolve them unless he asks, “What would you like me to do about it?” See, people not only have a issues, they have a notion of how they should be handled. Once both the issue and preferred solution are known, the sales person can decide if there is anything s/he can do about it. If not, s/he has to let it go.

For example, suppose the customer says, “It’s just too expensive.” Don’t try to justify why your price is what it is. Your response could be, “How much can you afford?” Or, “What were you expecting to pay?” If their number is far lower than your price, it’s usually best to just back off. However, if it’s in the range, you can start negotiating or try to find out what it would take for them to pay more.

People’s issues are usually different than what the salesperson is yapping about while they are trying to motivate the clients to buy. This cajoling, promoting, etc. just gets the prospect to dig in deeper or turns the person right off. Rather, keep asking what they want you to do about it.

Price is a good example. The prospect says, “The price is too high.” You can respond with, “OK, what else?” or “How much too high is it?” or “What else would you need in order to justify that amount?”

To pull off these questions and get the prospect to respond to the ambivalent and/or no-go situations the sales person must prepare and practice. Before every sales call, ask yourself, “What will I say when I encounter resistance or a ‘No’?” The best practice is to write it out and then role-play with someone, and/or practice in front of a mirror. If you try to practice these questions in your head, you’ll never be able to pull them off.

So prepare your commitment and resistance questions. Once you master these two questions, your closing ratios will soar, and wasted time with losers and looker will cease.

Practice asking, start asking, and I guarantee you’ll like the results.