Most salespeople simply do not question in a strategic way. They don’t plan the questions that they want to ask during the sales presentation.
If they did, the same questions wouldn’t come up in every sales conversation. These “same” questions tend to be checklist-type questions that cover bedroom count, price range, qualification ability, and so on.
The answers to these questions are important to know, but if salespeople stop here, they are ill-equipped to advance the sale because they lack a deep understanding of their prospects.
The problem with this “just-the-facts” approach is that these questions don’t yield particularly productive answers.
They are typically close-ended questions that generate one-word responses.
If a salesperson asks ten close-ended questions about bedrooms, price range, etc, he or she is only going to receive ten isolated pieces of information.
However, the salesperson that asks strategic, open-ended questions receives answers that yield a much deeper understanding of the customer.
For example, a sales counselor asks a close-ended question, “How many bedrooms are you looking for?”
This is important information to ascertain, but the question is closed and brings about a one-word answer, “Four.”
On the other hand, a different sales counselor asks an open-ended question, “Tell me what’s most important to you in a new home. I want to be able to point you in the right direction.”
The answer, “We’re looking for a one-story because I have a bum knee. We need at least three bedrooms but preferably four, so I can have a home office. We’d love to have a big kitchen that opens to a family room. And a three-car garage would be wonderful if we can get it.”
Note that the open-ended question elicited seven significant pieces of information. That’s the beauty of it. We learn so much more when we do not limit the prospect to a one-word response.
As sales professionals, we need every advantage we can get in order to stand out and not be eliminated.
When we know our customers at a deeper level than our competitors do, we will discover why our product meets their very specific needs while the competitor does not.