Thursday, June 05, 2008

Three questions to ask your prospects

I just came back from attending a few morning sessions at Enterprise Toronto’s “Innovation Forum.” I was impressed with speaker Rory Sheehan, a Toronto-based trainer and sales consultant.

His job was simple: teach a bunch of innovators and innovators to think like salespeople. Simple, like swimming up Niagara Falls.

The first thing, says Sheehan, is to forget selling “benefits.” People don't care about benefits, he says: they just want to know whether your product or service will solve their problem.

(I’m not sure I accept this blanket statement, but I certainly agree that you can't start selling benefits until you understand your prospect’s key concerns. Saying that your dual-voltage appliance will work in North America and Europe is pointless if the client has no intention of going to Europe.)

Whether you are selling high-tech solutions or women’s shoes, Sheehan offers this valuable formula: “Ask every prospect three things.”

1. What is most important to you about … (your product or service, or, better still, whatever problem your product is trying to solve)?

2. What part of that answer is most important to you? (Shifting your understanding to a deeper level.)

3. If you get that (whatever it is you say you want), what is it going to do for you? (This relates to prospects’ motivations, and may help them sell themselves on your solution.)

Shannon offers a bonus question – another useful, open-ended question that can help you probe the customer’s problem or objectives: “Have you ever experienced ….?”

If you’re selling shoes, for instance, you might ask if the customer has ever experienced a real high-end luxury brand, or has ever had a problem with too-high heels. Either way, you will learn more about your customer and get more clues on how to solve their problem.

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