Simply Sales with Scott
Written By: Scott Koepf, Senior Vice President of Sales, Avoya Travel
Last month’s column offered up a long list of questions that you can personalize, sort and integrate into your conversations with customers. The art of asking questions is, without a doubt, the most important skill set within the sales process. However, it takes more than just having a list that you can refer to and offer up when there is an awkward pause. It is important to remember what the ultimate objective is for not only the questions but the interaction with your customer in its entirety. As Stephen Shiffman said in his book Telesales, “The goal is to engage customers in conversations that illuminate their true desires not to assume their needs.”
Although having the right questions at the ready is a necessary first step, how you use them will be the key to learning about the customer and building a relationship. Your conversation should never come across like an interrogation, however, it is important that you stay in control of the interaction. For example, always try to use the following suggested best practice:
The Two Question Rule
Simply stated this means that you should never let the customer ask two questions in a row. It may sound overly controlling but it just allows you to get to the information you need in an efficient way. In practice, typically if you ask a question, the customer may answer and then ask you a question. I do not recommend telling them about the two-question rule and ignoring what they asked about! Instead answer their question in full but always finish your answer by tacking on another question of your own. This may mean you trade questions back and forth which is fine but you just don’t want them to be asking all of the questions. Sadly, this could lead to a customer picking your brain and then going elsewhere to book. Remember, your primary goal is to learn about the true desires of your customers so they feel you can provide a better experience for them because you understand them.
Once again, it is not just about having the list of questions at the ready, as important as that may be. Another part of asking questions effectively is the way in which you ask them.
Personalize, Dramatize and Engage
If you have not determined the fact that you are in the sales business by now, please accept it and embrace it. Sales is more like theatre than you may have ever imagined. Think of the list of questions as your script. Great scripts are revised constantly and you need to do the same. In some cases, those revisions happen in the moment because they become personalized to the situation. This can include using the name of the customer but even better is reframing the question using the information you have already learned. The purpose of the question is not to recite it verbatim but to get the customer to share information as openly as possible so rephrasing it on the spot can lead to more in-depth disclosures.
Inside every sales person there is a performer just waiting to go on stage! This is your chance to provide Oscar worthy delivery of your questions and more. Being authentic needs to be primary so don’t exaggerate or fake enthusiasm. However, between your voice inflections and where you place your emphasis on words can change the reaction to anything you say. So just like when an actor gets a script, read each question over and over and in different ways. Soon it will not sound like you are reading it and you will discover the most effective way to express the essence of the question. Just like on stage, the more spontaneous and natural a conversation sounds is actually the result of hours of practice and trying different approaches. Let the rehearsals begin!
Finally, make sure you stay fully engaged in the moment. Once again we can learn from the theatre world through improvisation. I highly recommend signing up for improv classes as this is a skill you will use every day. Even though you may have a well-rehearsed script, the difference in sales is that your customer does not have the same script. So being able to react to and have fun with the evolving conversation may be what will create a lifetime customer. Most improv classes will tell you that the most foundational element of good improv is an attitude of ‘yes, and’. This means you should take what the other person is going with and go in the same direction versus ignoring their previous input and asking something non-related. Improv is really just a heightened level of conversation and while it has gained fame for comedy, the process is just as effective in sales.
Rehearsed, Practiced or simply being prepared is what creates magical moments on stage and there is no difference in sales. I hope to see you on the red carpet soon!