Obtaining meaningful background information is critical when in the process of making a sale — and it will make you appear more persuasive in the eyes of everyone from your buyer to your boss.
In order to do that, try asking questions like these:
- “If I may inquire, how long have you been thinking about this?”
- “What prompted your research for this [car, computer, consultant]?”
- “You sound informed; where have you done your research?”
- “What do you know about [some feature, product, or approach]?”
- “Have you determined a reasonable budget for this purchase?”
- “Are you hopeful to have this done by [this quarter, the end of the year, after the snow melts]?”
These questions will give you a fairly solid idea of where your buyer is in his or her purchase cycle. Don’t be afraid to ask for specifics. If the buyer says, “I’ve looked online.” You can come back with, “Where, specifically?” The idea is for you to augment the prospect’s online research with your own knowledge, company information, and other services, and to obtain enough background information to help move you to the head of the pack in terms of being able to help this prospect.
A jumbled, incomplete account of a prospect’s history – “The company is thinking about maybe hiring a consultant to help with employee stuff; not sure what made them call us; sounds like they’ve talked to some other firms; they think they have budget and are planning to do something sometime next year” – does no one any good.
The prospect’s history, as obtained by a high-performance salesperson, should read something like this:
“Mack & Howe are looking for a consultant to help reduce employee turnover; they came to us because they read about our company in Forbes; they have already talked with two other firms: Deloitte and Stevens & Associates; are looking to spend between $50,000 and $75,000; and they want to have an initiative in place by the first quarter of next year.”
“Prospective buyer is named Kurt Samson and is currently driving a 2007 Lexus; has heard great things about the new Lincolns and wanted to check them out; he’s considering a Cadillac, too, and has visited both local stores; customer is working at the medical center as an anesthesiologist and is expecting a nice end-of-year bonus to put toward this purchase, which he doesn’t want to cost more than $500 per month; open to leasing.”
In both of these sample profiles, the salesperson has gathered the prospects’ names and interests, as well as key details about employment, what prompted them to consider the salesperson’s organization, where else they’re looking to buy, their purchase time frame and a good deal of info about financials. All of these details should be recorded in the organization’s customer relationship management system, on a spreadsheet or even in a notebook. They will likely be referred to time and again before the deal closes.
As a salesperson armed with this information, I know with whom I’m potentially competing. Combine this knowledge with other information I’ve acquired about the prospective buyer, and I now possess very specific details that will help me best serve the customer. And when my sales manager inquires about the crucial information I’ve obtained from a prospect, I can emphatically answer in the affirmative and show the information.
This is performance-based selling — and it makes you more professional, more credible and more persuasive.