A weekly marketing column by Graham McGregor

Graham McGregor: Asking questions to increase sales

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Imagine you went to see a medical specialist because you felt there was something wrong with your health.

So you walk into the medical specialist's office and he has a big smile on his face.

"Glad to see you Graham" he tells you. "Let me tell you about the wonderful special we have this week on heart medication. You are going to love it."

How would you feel about this medical specialist if they did this to you?

You would feel shocked that he would try and recommend something before he even knew what was wrong with you. You would feel cheated and you would not take his advice seriously.

The mistake this medical specialist made is obvious.

They did not take the time to ask you questions and do a proper diagnosis.

If they had taken the time to do this you would be far more likely to take their recommendation seriously.

It's exactly the same in selling.

Our prospects want to feel that we understand their situation well and that we will recommend a product or service that is genuinely helpful.

The only way we can understand a prospects situation is by asking questions and listening carefully to the answers.

In all selling you have to find out two things from the prospect:

One: Where are they right now?
Two: Where do they want to be?

Once you know this, you can focus on the "Gap" between where your prospect is now and where they would like to be.

Until you have identified a gap and your prospect is willing to find a way to close that gap it is a waste of time presenting your solution.

Once you recognise this 'Gap' between where you are and where you want to be you can take steps to close it.

Important Point:

You can't leap into a sales presentation until you are certain that your prospect recognises the 'Gap' and is willing to find a way to close it.

The fastest way to get your prospects to see the 'Gap' is to ask good questions and then to listen.

Example: I had an embarrassing lesson in how well questions can work when I was making a sales presentation to a sales manager many years ago. The sales manager had a team of 30 salespeople and I was telling him about how good my sales training programme was and how well it worked.

Unfortunately I was in love with my own voice at the time and had not taken the time to ask very many questions. I was talking, talking, talking and my sales presentation was going nowhere fast.

I had a new salesperson with me at the time and I was supposed to be teaching him what to do. This new salesperson was a lot smarter than me. He could see I was making no headway so he waited till I paused for breath. Then he asked a simple question to the sales manager.

"Barry, if you were somehow able to improve the sales results of your sales team by at least 10 per cent over the next six months; what would that mean to you?"

The sales manager immediately pulled out a calculator and began to work out some figures.

"That would be worth at least $75,000 to me" he said.

And for the first time he started to look interested in what we had to sell.

In another ten minutes we had a signed order for a large sales training programme for his team.

All from the power of one good question that helped the sales manager see the gap between where he was now and where he wanted to be.

Ask more questions when talking to potential clients this month.

Notice what happens when you do this.

'My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.' - Peter Drucker

Action Exercise:
What are some of the 'Gaps' that your product or service will solve for a client?

Graham McGregor is a marketing consultant and the creator of the 396 page 'Unfair Business Advantage Report.' www.theunfairbusinessadvantage.com (This is free and has now been read by business owners from 27 countries.) You can email him at the link above.

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A weekly marketing column by Graham McGregor

Graham has had 36 years 'hands on' experience in sales and marketing. He has sold a range of services including advertising, sales training, personal development, life insurance, IT services, investment property and business consulting services.

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