Are You Listening? Your Sale Depends On It!

When you meet with that potential customer, are you seeking to “sell” them on your product or service, or are you trying to solve a problem for them?

Think about it, our minds are conditioned to “sell” or as some put it “persuade” a potential customer to go with our product or service because we have the “best” over our competitors and they would do themselves a disservice by not going with us.

Okay, so you have sold the customer on  your product or service, however, a few months down the line, the now “customer” realizes that it’s not a fit for them, it doesn’t meet their needs and now they’ve lost money, and are still in the same or similar state they were in before buying your product or service. In addition, you may have lost repeat business and potential referral business because the customer is not satisfied. Listen!

If you are doing more talking than listening, you may have already lost the sale, confused the potential customer or convinced them to buy something that is not a right fit for them. Customers do not want to be sold; they want you to solve a problem that they have. This means that you (yes I mean you) need to listen so than you can discover their wants and their needs and fact find.

So What does Fact-Finding looking like?interrogation-300x225

Have you ever seen those old detective movies from the 1940’s and 1950’s where the suspect is in the interrogation room, the light is shining on them with the mysterious detective in the shadows asking them questions in a low and monotone voice?  Typically, the first question the detective asks the suspect is “where were you on the night of…?”  You get the gist of what I am talking about here and while your fact-finding should not sound like an interrogation, the light should always shine on the potential customer because they are the star in your fact-finding. Only 20% of your time should be spent talking and 80% listening.

The purpose of fact-finding is to learn the wants and needs of the potential customer along with other pertinent information that will help you in making the sale.  You are discovering their pain points and gaining an understanding of how to solve the problem with your product or service. People do not buy a product or service, they buy what the product or service can do for them; in other words, the “benefit”. Therefore, your ability to solve a problem with your product or service is a benefit to the potential customer.

Getting to “Yes”

To get a “yes” from the potential customer when you ask for the business, you will want to make sure that you have asked the right questions to eliminate or minimize any changes that might get in the way of moving forward in the sale. A natural curiosity for the wants and needs of the customer is key here along with asking the right open-end questions (what, where, how and when). Closed-end questions (can, did, will, and are) will get you minimal or yes/no responses, which will not help you to go deeper in understanding the customer’s wants and needs.  The focus should be on the potential customer’s wants, needs, and seizing the opportunity to demonstrate the end-result benefits to doing business with you as you solve their problem. This is where you tie results to wins for the potential customer.

You goals for discovering wants and needs are to:

  • Develop rapport and credibility with the potential customer
  • Gain understanding of the potential customer’s situation
  • Help the potential customer tell you how you can help them buy from you
  • Stimulate their interest and sense of urgency
  • Establish the potential customer’s internal motivation by helping them emotionalize the rewards and/or consequences associated with their decision to take action
  • Help you to provide the right solution to solve the problem

Developing good questioning techniques are critical to a successful sale. It helps you to effectively identify needs, and understand the potential customer and their situation, their style of buying and what will be needed to induce a positive decision to do business with you. You are also establishing a relationship that is genuine, participative and communicative while reinforcing your credibility.

Tips for Discovering Wants and Needs

  • Listen  80% of the time and talk only 20% of the time – shine the light on the potential customer and not you.
  • Stay objective – leave evaluation and judgement at the door for what the potential customer is sharing.
  • Ask open-ended questions – in other words questions that elicit responses that are more than one word. Example: “Would you please describe…?”, “How does that…?”
  • Be on the alert for defensiveness – if the potential client becomes defensive, change to a more comfortable topic and return to the topic later only if it is necessary.
  • Resist the urge to talk about solutions – fully explore the issues first and fully understand the wants and needs and their implications.

Equally important is developing your list of questions and ensuring that they are effective and natural in delivery. Once you get the questions, they become a part of the natural flow in your conversations with potential customers. First, get specific information about the most urgent and important issues in the customer’s mind. Second, phrase your questions in an effective manner so that the responses you get are open and honest. Third, makes sure your questions are presented in a logical sequence. It can help you stay organized and will help your potential customer to stay on track with you during the conversation. So what’s the order?

  1. General/Situational Questions first – Current State
  2. Goal/Problem Questions  – future state
  3. Consequence Rewards/Implication Questions
  4. Decision-making questions

The sale doesn’t have to go awry at the onset because the potential customer feels like their being sold, all they need to hear is that you are solving their problem and that means that all you need to do is listen!


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