Attention, Salespeople: It’s Not About 'You'

Jan 24, 2019

By Suzanne Bates

"It's not you, it's me," is a classic, clichéd breakup line. Unfortunately, in the world of sales, too many professionals labor under the false impresstion that "me, me, me" is what matters most when they’re courting a new customer. “My company, my product, my service is the leading, the best, the only,” the blah, blah, blah.   Savvy salespeople know that the secret to success in business is not the word "me," but the word "you."

Count the words in the average conversation or sales letter and chances are the words "I" and "my" are mentioned many times more often than the words "you" and "your." People only want to talk about themselves!

Salespeople can set themselves apart from the pack and uncover far more opportunities if they begin every conversation by adopting a "you" point of view. For example: "How do you see it?" "What's your take on this?" "How would you like to see this resolved?" Try asking a question without using the word you.  You'll find that It isn't easy. Switching into "question mode" forces a salesperson to use the word "you," which leads to opportunity.

Asking the right questions is key to making the sale
A lot of people believe they are asking good questions—but if they were to videotape mock sales or business conversations, they would see that their questions are not always productive. One common mistake is neglecting to dig deeply enough to uncover the customer’s real issues, challenges and needs.

If your company needs a new copier, you will shop around and look at  several different models, at a few different stores. Which one will you end  up buying? The model from the sales representative who took the time to ask, "What do you need? How much will you use the copier?" “What kinds of jobs will you be doing?” That salesperson may not have presented an elaborate pitch, but because he asked the right questions he made the sale. He sent the strong impression that he actually cared about his customer.

Questions also lead to a deeper level of communication, where you can identify a customer's key needs. Often, the "presenting" need is not the most important one; questions will help you uncover the true problem.

After taking this step, it's far easier to tailor a presentation precisely for the audience. By taking the time to truly understand a customer's needs, the salesperson will not have wasted anyone's time and will have formed the basis for an on-going relationship. Questions also imply that a salesperson has the requisite expertise to supply the answers.

Questions help you avoid the hard sell. If you ask the right questions, the other customer articulates the needs and solutions for you. So you don't  do the work; the customer does it for you.  When a customer is doing the talking, he or she is more likely to buy, and to buy without feeling pushed.

Perhaps the most important benefit of asking the right questions is to help develop stronger relationships between yourself and your customers. When you present thoughtful questions, you show that you are sincerely interested in them and their business. They in turn become more interested in the sale, because the salesperson is interested in them.

Here are a few examples of great questions:

  1. What could we do to make this a good meeting, well worth your time?
  2. What are your goals?
  3. What is the biggest challenge you're facing right now?
  4. What is that challenge costing you in time/money/resources?
  5. What would be an ideal outcome?
  6. Is there anything else we need to talk about today?

Write down your questions in advance. Try to anticipate what the other person's needs or concerns will be and tailor your questions to address them. Many people prepare for an important meeting by buffing up on their specialties or by practicing their routine
speech about their strengths. If you instead arrive at a sales meeting armed with a list of questions for your prospect, you'll set the stage for the beginning of a happy, prosperous and mutually satisfying relationship.

About the Author(s)

Suzanne Bates is president and CEO of Bates Communications and is the author of Speak Like a CEO: Secrets to Commanding Attention and Getting Results (McGraw-Hill), from which this article was adapted. . For more information, visit www.bates-communications or call 1-800-903-8239.