Friday, May 12, 2006

Influencing: Set-Up Questions


Recently I gave a talk to a large group of sales professionals. I talked about asking questions in selling.

In the good old days, some sales persons invented one of the best selling skills - asking questions. They asked questions not to sell, but to gather information about their potential clients. Then, they used the information to sell. This is a great selling model. You understand your clients better. You know their needs and their hot buttons.

Then some "smart" guys created a even "better" way to ask questions. They invented some questions that can sell the clients directly. No matter what the clients answered, the sales person can use the clients' answers to sell them further.

For example, they can ask their client: Have you heard of the product X? If the answer is "yes", they have a standard script to push the selling process further. If "no", they still have another script to do the same. It can be a series of questions, which finally leads to the closing of the sales.

These are the so-called Set-Up Questions. You set up your clients. If you think that these questions are good, think again.

It could be effective years ago when the skill was firstly created. After years, people are well aware of these questions. They take great care to answer these Set-Up questions in order not to be set-up. This is the biggest reason why clients don't want to answer sales persons' questions.

Our clients are becoming smarter and smarter. Forget about these outdated techniques. Just ask questions to explore more about the clients. My favourite question is: How is your current situation in X? This is an open question without any set-up.

If you ask me what is the follow-up question, there is none. If there is any pre-determined follow-up question, the first question then becomes a Set-Up for your clients. Just ask questions to get more information.

Everybody in the sales profession understands the fact that the more the clients talk, the higher the chance of closing the deal. The only way for a client to talk more is to ask clean questions and to make them feeling safe. Stop using any Set-Up questions!

Explore, Exceed & Excel

Updated: Aug 15 2008