The Worst Question to Ask a Customer

So many sales people ask me about what is the best question to use in selling. I have shared my all time favorite one – I called it the Million Dollar Question – and I shared it a while back on this site.

Yet, the biggest mistake made by sales people is to ask the “wrong” question which challenges the intelligence of the customer. This question surprisingly is triggered by one word. When you use this word at the wrong time to begin a question, you have opened up “Pandora’s box” and you are about to get bit where you don’t want to be bitten – in your bank account.

You’re probably wondering at this time, just what is this powerful yet negative question?

The worst question you can ask a customer is…

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How Discover the Information You Need

Since I am a total proponent for the Questioning Model in Sales, how do you use this model to learn the Information you need to successfully make the B2B sales?

Obviously, you use questions during your discovery process as you want the prospect or customer doing most of the talking. Their answering questions allows you to learn about what is going on within their organization.

Note: even the very best b2b sales superstar is NOT an insider for the prospect or customer company. While it is important to have a coach or champion who wants you to win the account, not all the time will you have this person in place. And, sometimes (this has definitely happened to me) your inside champion leaves or is promoted away from your target area.

Now what do you do?

You plan your questions carefully to uncover the answers to several important pieces of information.

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The Single Best Question to Ask in Selling

Recently I have seen an increase of the number of requests for “the single best question to ask a customer or prospect” when engaged in b2b selling.

Truthfully, I really do not believe there is one single question that covers everything as sales situations will vary in circumstances.

Yet, there is one question that I always have ready to use with any customer or prospect I’m calling on. Sometimes I refer to this question as the million dollar sales question since it has the ability to open the door of an objective conversation with the customer or prospect.

The question to use is…

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Are You Really Listening?

Been doing some observation work with several b2b sales people and have noticed one thing. Most of the sales people need to ramp up their ability to really listen to their customers.

Again the signs are there for us to learn. Our customers and clients actually want us to listen and comprehend and understand what they want and need. It is our job to deliver these results by listening aggressively.

The truth is most b2b sales people are trained or have behavioral styles which are very adept at presenting and talking. Sometimes they can even ask questions after being trained on the Questioning Model of B2B Selling.

However, the question remains – are they really listening to what is being said by the customer?

Often listening is the one skill sales people take for granted. Their expectations are limited to believing they are naturally good at listening. Therefore, there is very little time and effort applied to learning exactly how to actively listen.

How about some b2b sales tips regarding the reasons to learn the skill of listening?

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Stop Educating Your Buyer – Start Finding the Opportunity

Earlier I wrote an article about how the buyer does not need the b2b sales person anymore. And, this statement or information is true. Yet, there are some systematic issues which are creating confusion within the sales organization.

Okay, first, the amount of product knowledge training is still out of control. During the Great Recession, companies figured they could constraint expenses by using more product knowledge training – which could be handled by internal staff rather than outside sales advisers. The data has been showing organizations have been spending upwards of 85% of their “sales training” budgets on product knowledge.

Second, it is true product knowledge does help the sales person to be more creative in recognizing sales opportunities when they are dropped in their laps. And, a side effect is the higher confidence factor when a b2b sales person understanding their products and product lines well.

Third, the majority of product knowledge training is a total waste of time and resources!

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Five Reasons to Use the Questioning Model of b2b Selling

Just reviewing several notes on effective selling and realized a few sales people keep asking me the same question…

Why Should I Use the Questioning Model of b2b Selling over the Traditional Presentation Model?

Therefore, I decided to point out five specific reasons to use the Questioning Model for b2b Sales. Here are the five reasons for using the Questioning Model for b2b Sales…

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To Make an Impact, Ask Questions to Get a Prospect Thinking

One mistake I see a number of b2b sales people do is asking simple questions a prospect can answer without any thought. Really, they go on auto pilot – usually because every reasonably trained b2b sales person will ask the same type of question.

An example of these “simple” questions are the knee jerking…

What problems are keeping you up at night these days? Or worst, how many plants do you have now? Or, is your current vendor / supplier meeting all your needs?

These questions do not get the prospect thinking about anything other than a knee jerk response usually at a minimum information flow to you. The other point – and more important point – is it shows you have done NO HOMEWORK regarding this prospect.

So what do you do?

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Five Areas for Thought Provoking Questions

We are being mislead by the continuous chorus of being politically correct or soft pedaling your questions. Well, throw those thoughts out the window – if you want to stay in the b2b sales game for a long time.

Okay, it is true about most b2b sales people being trained using the traditional or old school model of selling. This is one that relies upon you telling your story – over and over and over again. Unfortunately for you, your competitors are using the same stories for the most part and the customers are getting bored.

The boredom is transferred to asking you about price before you have had any time to develop a value to your sales presentation. The real reason for the price question is to stop you in your tracks.

So, how do you get the prospective customer to be patience and open up about their real situation? You must use thought provoking questions designed to show you are a b2b sales professional who wants to help them.

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Customers Don’t Want to be Sold Anything

Yes, that is totally and 100% correct. Customers or potential customers don’t want to be sold anything.

In fact, if you are using the same old school tactics they have already seen three to six times before seeing you do the same things. Well, it does not feel good from the customer’s point of view. They have greeting other sales people during the day – all using the same small talk tactics – is that your family in  the picture? Did you really catch the fish? Shoot the dear? So you like to ski? Blah, blah, blah.

What are you doing to be different?

First, always remember this – Being Trusted by the Customer is More Important than Being Liked by the Customer.

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Six Techniques to Improve Effective Listening

As a big believer in the use of the questioning model for b2b sales success, I need to share the other side of the equation. Making the environment safe for the customer or potential customer to truthfully answer your questions.

Your ability to effectively listen is a major contributor to both making it safe to answer your questions and most importantly allowing the better rapport to be built during the question and answer process. For the corporate customer, being in a safe place is one of the most important concerns they have. And, the ability to listen (you are not talking or telling) allows for a feeling of “I’m important” for the customer.

So here are six techniques designed to improve effective listening for you. Use these techniques and you will be seen as a true sales professional.

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