Telling our story and talking about what we do is important - people need to understand how we can help them and why we are a good fit for their consideration, but that takes second place to listening.
We need to engage our potential customers and clients in conversation to learn what is on their mind, what they are trying to accomplish, why what they have now (or don't have) is creating an issue for them, and specifically how we can help them to address and alleviate these concerns.
While there are many important skills and traits that we can possess to be good at making sales with people who need our services, the most important one is the ability to draw out the customer by asking questions. This is partly can be taught but is largely natural ability.
Give me any person who is people oriented that knows how to ask questions – and likes doing so – and I can teach them to sell. A love of people causes us to want to learn about them, their needs, and how we can help them.
Nevertheless, asking questions without ever using the information received is pointless. We must listen intently, meaningfully, and sincerely to what people share with us. They can tell when we are taking an active interest in their situation versus just biding our time until we can talk again.
For that reason, someone with great product knowledge that isn’t comfortable asking questions or isn’t able to develop a natural rhythm of asking questions and engaging the customer in purposeful but flowing conversation is going to be more challenged in becoming a successful salesperson.
Asking questions is nothing more than having a conversation with someone. Take someone you hardly know or are meeting for the first time at a social event. You ask what they do, about their family, where they live, where they’re from, what they like to do, and so forth.
Before long, you have an idea of their background and areas that you have in common. It’s not all one-sided either. It’s give-and-take. You learn about them, and they learn about you.
Sales is quite similar. There are certain types of questions you can’t ask until the foundation has been established, but it’s very similar.
Asking questions because you want to know the answers, because you are curious, because you need an explanation, and because you want a clarification will guide you toward successful a sales presentation.
Along the way, you’ll learn what you need to focus on and the answers that your customers need to have in order to make an informed decision on your product.