By Paul Reilly

Imagine walking into an electronics store. Immediately, the salesperson greets you and shows you a brand new TV. They start telling you everything you never wanted to know about this television. After their pitch, they ask you, “What do you think?” You respond by saying, “Please point me to the computers.”

How often do salespeople make this mistake? Salespeople assume they know what the customer needs. This mindset limits the salesperson. The fix is simple, ask more questions.

Tom Reilly Training’s internal research shows the best salespeople have a better understanding of their customers’ needs. Top-achieving salespeople spend 38 percent of their selling time understanding their customers’ needs. They spend more time listening on sales calls than talking. They have a genuine interest in understanding their customers.

Top-achievers ask the right questions which puts the focus on the customer. The right questions give the customer the opportunity to speak, giving top-achievers the opportunity to listen.

The right questions also help the customer discover their own needs. Oftentimes, buyers are unaware of their needs. By asking questions, you help the buyer discover their own insights and own ideas. People value their own ideas and insights more than anyone else’s. People are more likely to buy into a decision or idea if it’s their own.

To help you sell more effectively, ask better questions. Here are seven questions to uncover the customer’s needs.

What’s important to you when making this decision?

This question reveals the buyer’s hot-button issues. By answering the question, the buyer is telling you what is important to them. This question also takes the focus off of price and focuses on their objectives. Once you reveal these hot-button issues, incorporate them into your presentation.

What do you expect from our products, our company, and our people?

Customer expectations are the true benchmark of satisfaction. Value-added organizations aim to exceed their customers’ expectations, but you cannot exceed expectations until you know what they are. From the very beginning, understand what your customers expect from your solution.

The three dimensions of value include the product, company, and people. The customer has different expectations for each dimension. If you understand their broader expectations, you have a better understanding of their needs. Asking this question also enlarges the conversation beyond just price.

Fast forward to the end of this project. What does the ideal outcome look like?

When making a purchasing decision, most buyers want the best long-term solution. Yet, they get hung-up on short-term issues like price. To effectively sell your value-added solution, the buyer has to think long term.

When the buyer is thinking long term, they focus on outcomes. When a buyer thinks long term, they are less focused on price because they focus on outcomes.

How are you currently meeting your needs?

This a logical but underutilized question. Salespeople assume they understand how a buyer is solving their problems or satisfying their needs. This question reveals your competition for the business. Your competition could be another supplier, provider, or the status quo. For your solution to stand out from the competition, you have to know your competition.

What do you like and dislike about your current solution?

The response to this question will reveal the customer’s level of dissatisfaction with their current method or solution. The more dissatisfied the buyer, the more likely they are to change.

If the buyer is dissatisfied with their current solution, probe deeper to understand their pain. Bring that pain to the surface so the buyer is aware of how that pain impacts them.

If you were going into our business tomorrow, what would you offer customers that nobody is offering?

This question allows the buyer to dream. Their answer reveals what is missing. This could be a point of differentiation for your solution. When the buyer answers this question, they are fundamentally telling you that they are not completely satisfied with their current solution.

They are also revealing your window of opportunity. The goal of this question is to highlight a gap between the buyer’s needs and their current solution. The larger the gap, the greater your window of opportunity.

If we could provide the ideal solution, how would that impact you?

The answer to this question reveals the downline impact of your solution. The buyer is telling you what they stand to gain. When the buyer answers this question, they are restating the value proposition.

By answering this question, the buyer experiences an “ah-ha” moment. They discover that your solution will help them achieve their goals or solve a problem.

Bonus question: What do you give your customer the opportunity to do tomorrow they cannot do today?

This powerful sales question isn’t answered by the customer, it’s answered by you. To help you prepare for your next sales presentation, ask yourself this question. The answer to this question is why the customer should choose your alternative.

Questions give us the opportunity to listen and reveal our customers’ needs. These are great questions to get the conversation started with the customer. When you ask the customer the right questions, self-discovery will compel the buyer to act. Remember, those who listen are more persuasive than those who talk.

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