Five Ways Asking Questions Leads to Connections

Because we customize all our People First Productivity Solutions sales training workshops, we routinely survey participants prior to training. This gives participants a voice in shaping the focus and content of their training.

By asking a series of questions, we learn a great deal about the sales culture, practices and strengths of a team. We also learn about gaps and perceived limitations for each seller. This is all intentional, and the surveys are written to mine for this kind of information.

Surprisingly, there’s something more that comes from every survey we do. We didn’t set out to make this happen. It just did. People responded warmly, openly and with gratitude. Our training engagement levels, feedback scores, rate of skills application and number of social media followers all began to skyrocket. Training participants connected with us.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, asking questions also yields these same benefits. It just hadn’t dawned on us that survey questions would have the same impact.

Quality questions always foster connections for these five reasons:

Quality questions demonstrate an interest in the person you are talking with. Sellers who talk about their own products and services inadvertently demonstrate that their only interest in the other person is whether or not they will buy. Sellers who talk about generic value or assumed benefits demonstrate that their interest is merely casual, perhaps even lazy. Real, genuine interest prompts us to explore what the other person is thinking and what matters most to them.

Quality questions build trust. We trust people who ask us questions and openly accept our opinions and input. We remain skeptical about those who proceed without checking in with us or checking on their own assumptions. Questions build trust by building mutual understanding.

Quality questions give you common ground and a foundation for a relationship. Only the shallowest of connections are facilitated by our online research about the buyers we call on. While you might be able to open a conversation on a common interest, cause or affiliation, you can’t construct a strong foundation on that common ground without questions. Questions personalize the connection and reveal deeper and more meaningful links.

Quality questions invite sharing and an open exchange. Questions promote sharing. Your questions signal your genuine interest and give permission for others to share. When they’ve shared with you, they’ll be more open and ready to what you have to share. Questions get the party started.

Quality questions stimulate thought and insights. As a seller, you don’t need to know all the answers. Insight selling doesn’t mean that all the insights are your own. Instead, you discover and co-create new insights in a rich dialogue with your buyer. When you ask thought-provoking questions, you bring information to the surface. That’s what leads to new insights and ideas.

All five of these connections come from asking QUALITY questions. So what’s a quality question? It’s one that comes from genuine interest in the other party and yields rich information in return. You can read more about our research on questions and how they help build buyer/seller connections in our bestselling book DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on connecting with others. As a seller, continual focus on strengthening connections with buyers and others is an essential ingredient of success. For our regular features on connecting with buyers, check out CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.   

In Sales, Don’t Fake It ‘Til You Make It

The notion that you should “fake it ‘til you make it” will damage your credibility with buyers.

Buyers know when you’re faking it, and they don’t give you bonus points for trying. Instead, because there is already a trust gap between sellers and buyers, they shut down if they sense you are inauthentic, uninformed, or poorly prepared.

You won’t fool them by faking it. Nor will you feel good about the work that you are doing. The worst stereotypes about sellers come from this notion that we should fake it ‘til we make it, and it’s time to put a stop to that ineffective practice.

 

Although some sellers try to “fake it ‘til they make it” in all parts of the sales cycle, I’ve recently been observing this in two distinct areas – cold calling and pitching.

Here are three ways sellers derail their own prospecting efforts by attempting to fake their way into a meeting:

-          They grasp at straws to find even the slightest hint of a connection, often using a tool like LinkedIn to latch onto something – anything – that provides common ground. True story: one seller recently opened a phone call with me by saying “You’re on the radio, right? Well, I’ve listened to radio programs before. So I thought we ought to talk about the office automation tool that is rated #1 by…”
-          They claim they’ve been referred by someone. Name dropping is only useful when there is an actual referral involved. It’s also a risky business. One seller recently name dropped about a business owner’s former partner, only to get an earful about the ugly lawsuit about the dissolution of the partnership.

 

-          They pretend they returning a phone call or following up when, in fact, this is the very first contact made. I had a chance to toy with a seller who tried this last month, putting him on the spot to tell me who he spoke to here, when and about what. His hemming and hawing was a credibility-killer.
The “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy also fails when it comes to providing value. Many sellers offer a pretense of value rather than providing actual value that is meaningful to the buyer. Here are some signs that you might inadvertently be doing this:

  • The value proposition you use is generic, and you use it over and over again.
  • You refer to “value” because you think it’s a buzzword that will help you make the sale. Your intent is all about making the sale, and it is not about finding, creating or delivering value to your prospect.
  • You are confusing price with value. You discount prices and call that value.
  • You don’t know much about the people you’re calling on, their needs or their current priorities. You may even think that taking time to learn about individuals will be a nuisance for you.
  •   You rely on your products and your company to provide value and added value. You leave it up to marketing to build value into your sales pitch.

If you fake it ‘til you make it, you’re not going to make it.

Instead, work to be authentic. Start by developing a mindset that is founded in an intent to truly create value for each and every individual buyer. Doing this will make more difference in your selling effectiveness then any artificial or trumped up approach you can take. Don’t be lazy, don’t fake it, and don’t ignore the impact of being a seller who truly focuses on the customer.

When you bring value, you will make sales. But you can never do that until you stop faking it.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on connecting with others. As a seller, continual focus on strengthening connections with buyers and others is an essential ingredient of success. For our regular features on connecting with buyers, check out CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.

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