The Fear of Asking
Well-trained sales people know that “asking questions, rather than telling” is critical to their professional success and yet the vast majority of sales people struggle with it.
Successful sales people know that probing and checking are two critical muscles that, once built, will lead them to more sales, and yet, they fail to use them.
Great sales professionals know that asking questions is far more effective than any other sales skills when engaging with their customers, building trust and finding out their real needs. And yet, many of them will end up pitching too early in the sales cycle.
So, why is it so hard for most of us to put into practice something that we know will make us more successful in our jobs?
The four main reasons why sales people find it so difficult to ask questions:
1. Fear. Yes, let us face it; asking questions is for some people something totally out of their comfort zones. The fear of looking dumb, the fear of losing control of the sales conversation or the fear of uncertainty makes us, human beings, feel unsafe. Don´t forget that our brains have been hardwired to keep us away from any threat –real or imagined-.#
2. It does not feel natural…at the beginning. We are creatures of habits and most of us have been taught to “tell” instead of to “ask” since we were very little, and like with every other new skill that we want train, it requires effort and it gets better with practice. And beginnings are often tough!
3. Assumptions kill curiosity. And curiosity is the basis of the art of probing and effective listening. We tend to believe that we know everything about our customers after a few questions without realising that there might be “much more” going on underneath the surface; many great sales opportunities are missed for this reason.
4. They know it intellectually. But they do not know it by experience yet. They might have been trained to believe that improving their questioning skills will bring them more sales but they have not experienced the real impact that asking more questions and talking less has on their real customers and they have not felt the difference they can make yet.
So now that we know what is preventing most sales people from asking more and talking less, let us explore what it takes to bridge the gap between knowing and doing.
These are three steps that would help you master your questioning skills and go from being competent to being a top sales performer:
1. Practice, practice, and practice until it feels more natural and the fear is gone. Be ready to celebrate a few failures along the road knowing that it is only by daring to fail that you will end up mastering this new key skill. Celebrate all the successes too and do not forget to have fun! Here 14 great questions to start asking your customers.
2. Get a coach or ask for feedback regularly. Commit yourself to your own development by having someone you trust keep you accountable alongside the process. There will be some hard times and having someone by your side to cheer you up when you most need it will help.
3. Go back to when you were 3 years old and get curious! We all make assumptions about everyone and everything but if you connect with one of the most basic human emotions- curiosity– you will find it easier to probe and questions will flow from you more naturally –as you did when you were 3 years old -.
As Claude Levi-Strauss once said: “The wise man does not give the right answers, he poses the right questions”.
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All the best!
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