Pop the Question

By Colleen Francis

If closing profitable business, building long term relationships and lasting competitive advantage is what you hope to achieve in sales, then you need to develop closing techniques that don't leave you or your prospect feeling beaten up, manipulated or "hard done by" at the end of the selling process. Too many times I see sales people who are willing to do, and say, almost anything to get the sale. The end result? A tenuous relationship between a client who never trusts, who thinks their "sales person doesn't understand what they really need," and who feels they need to constantly shop the solution to keep their sales rep "honest;" and a sales person who resents his customer for being "too much work," and for being ungrateful for "how I went to bat for them."

In short, nobody's happy!

How do we change the way we close business to ensure that we maintain strong, profitable and lasting relationships? First, we need to make a fundamental shift in thinking around what we consider "closing the sale" to be about.

Closing business today is not about wrestling your prospect to the mat at the end of a long and confusing sales cycle. Today, closing depends on gaining agreement with your prospect early and often, building a series of mini agreements throughout the selling process. Getting agreement from your prospect that there is a reason that you both agree on to continue moving forward with the sales process, will ensure that the deal is brought to a close easily and naturally.

"To ask the right question is already half the solution to the problem" - Carl Jung. Successfully building a series of agreements with your prospects throughout the sales cycles depends 100% on your ability to ask the right questions. So what are the right questions to ask your prospect? Questions that move the prospect from an intellectual position of knowing that they have a problem that needs to be solved, to an emotional state of trusting you to solve that problem in a way that will satisfy them. The right questions are those questions that reveal true buying motivations.

Try these 4 steps during your needs analysis to help you close more deals and build lasting profitable customer relationships:

1. Identify the Intellectual Problem in 1 of 2 ways.

Open Ended Questions:

What's the biggest challenge you are facing today in the area of {x}?

Specific questions:

Our clients tell us that we help them solve problems in the area of {x}. That's not a problem for you, is it?

2. Develop Intellectual Awareness about this problem.

Can you tell me more about it?

Could you be more specific?

How long have you had this concern?

What have you done to address it?

How did that work out?

3. Getting emotional! Identify the specific business impact of this problem.

How has this problem impacted your organization?

If you had to guess, what do you think this problem is costing your department {company, business, etc}?

What will happen if this problem continues?

4. Getting emotional! Identify the specific personal impact of this problem.

What impact does this problem have on your job {your staff}?

How important is this to you personally?

What will happen if you don't find a solution to this problem?

Why is it so important?

If you are going to get engaged, you can't just ask any old question. Mastering the right questions will ensure that you and your client build a strong relationship where you both succeed and profit.

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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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