I once had a customer who was a bit of a maverick in his marketplace and in the industry. He has since passed away, but Chuck Forcey was a character. When he was in the military, he flew planes and was on an elite fighter team…and he brought his irreverent ways with him.
Fortunately, he had a commander who was tougher and more focused than Chuck was and while he respected and appreciated what Chuck brought to the team, he refused to let the team be defined by one of its members. To address a particularly aberrant behavior, the commander pulled Chuck aside and told him: “You are a valued member of this team…and you will have a place on this team as long as your contribution exceeds your aggravation…and not a moment longer.” I LOVE that measure of relationships … and don’t we all use something like that, even if it’s not as clearly stated? Think about it as you evaluate design project clients, hire new associates, work for rogue employers…and maybe closer to home, too.
In keeping with the lifelong practice of asking questions is my lifelong practice of talking about them. Imagine a conversation where YOU really drive the exchange by completing EVERY response you have with a question. Think about it. Even if you answer a question posed by the other person, you keep the volley going with a question of your own. You: “Lobster is my favorite food…what’s yours?”
One of the more challenging types of questions is Commitment Questions – asking for a commitment from the other person so that occurs as a benefit to them.
Jim Grady was a partner and collaborator of mine for years and he was/is a terrific salesperson. Early in his career, he had the good fortune of working with a top real estate agent. Jim asked him what made him so successful and the response was “I always ask for a commitment”. When he would show a property, he would ask the prospect “Do you like this?” And if they said yes, he would ask “Do you want to make an offer?” Then he would manage their response.
Look at your selling strategy. Are you intending to ask for a commitment from the prospect – either the sale today or an appointment to make a sale tomorrow? Do you really know where the prospect is in their buying process and what they are ABLE to do now? Do you need to ask more Discovery Questions?
It’s all research and practice. Keep asking questions…all kinds of questions. And if you need help, ask for it.
When I roleplay/practice with salespeople and play the part of the salesperson as a way of demonstrating the behavior I want them to follow, I am very conscious of my intention and behavior in the interaction: I am focused on what they are saying, use voice and body match, listen deeply and reframe their words and recreate their emotion, and ask more questions in response to what they say. These are all teachable actions and they all require repeated practice.
The last one – ask more questions in response to what they say – is a critical skill to adopt and repeat. When I observe salespeople in role play or on the floor, I see that they TELL the customer something in response to what they say instead of telling and asking another question.
Customer: “Is this solid wood?”
Salesperson: “Yes it is.” ADD” Can you tell me what’s important to you about solid wood?”
I also find this step is lacking when discussing money. Example:
Customer: “Is $1500 the price for this sofa?”
Salesperson: “Yes.” ADD: “Will that price work for you?”