A warm welcome to the Year of the Monkey!
Apart from that, it might be all bad news as the economy for 2016 might not be as fantastic as it used to be. For many companies, that could mean downsizing and retrenchment. For other companies, it could also mean going after new customers, who might be the competitors' current customers.
Part of the challenge to develop new customers is to find out what the customer is thinking, and explore potential needs. The challenge within that challenge is: many customers may not be willing to share those information with you
Hence, this month's topics:
This issue's main article is on "How to Find Out Anything from Your Customers", and we explore what are some effective questioning techniques to get to the truth of what your customer is thinking.
How to Find Out Anything from Your Customers
by c.j. Ng
Chris was a former Sales Support Engineer whom had just join to become a sales person recently.
Just like all sales people,
Chris went through a typical sales
training workshop to get him up to
speed with the required selling
skills. And just like all
typical sales training, there was an
emphasis on asking questions
to find out customers' needs, and then
suggest the right solutions to fulfil
After a few rounds of role plays, Chris felt confident enough to take the plunge and do some serious probing of customers' needs.
Chris started out by asking questions, "Hi, I'd like to find out what are some possible needs you have for our products?" It was an open question, and Chris felt it should be a good start.
"No need," came the replies, as was the case for most of the customers. For the remaining few who are willing give a different answer, they in turn asked Chris a question, "How much does your product cost?"
And Chris duly answered, "Oh, the price range is from $x to $y, depending on your quantities and level of customisation."
"Too expensive," came the answer.
After facing a number of rejections despite asking open questions, Chris felt demoralised. He starts to wonder if he had made the right choice switching from a Technical Sales Support role, to a sales role.
Getting Better Responses from the Questions You Ask
If the customer is not familiar with the sales person, it is very likely that the customer is going to be very wary about answering your questions. They are not too sure if whatever they say might be used in your favour, against them.
Hence, it might make sense to start with a Purposeful Opening Statement, just to let the customer understand that it is very much also in their favour if you can get some insights for your questions, such as:
"I'd like to find out if there are effective ways to achieve lesser downtime for your production. Is it OK that I ask a few questions to understand your situation?"
Some things to note in the above Purposeful Opening Statement:
Now that we get permission to proceed, we go to the next phase, which is to understand the customer's current situation. Most sales people perceive this wrongly by asking:
The real crux of understanding the customer's situation, are to:
Some examples of situational questions may include:
While these questions might not help pinpoint to you the specific needs the customers might have, it gives you the context of what the customer is doing, and also allows the customer to build trust and rapport by sharing some information of what they do.
The Difference Between Where You Are, and Where You Want to Be
As the main purpose of asking questions in sales is to find out the needs of the customer, then the customer's "needs" can be defined as
"The Difference between Where You are, and Where You Want to Be"
The mistake that most sales people make is to ask the customer if they need our products or solutions. Unfortunately, customers don't have any needs for our products or solutions unless they know we can help them get from where they are now, to where they want to be.
Hence, we don't start with asking customers what products or solutions they want. We probe into areas where the customer may not be entirely happy about, and explore ways that will give them a better result.
Some sales people understand this principle, and ask the customer questions such as:
Asking such questions will only get customers to give a non-answer (e.g. "oh, we are quite happy with our current suppliers" or "That will be confidential information")
Instead, you will need to structure your questions from multiple angles to get to some real and hidden needs that your customers might have.
Your Questioning Strategy
Unlike what most sales training will advocate, your questioning strategy will be a lot more complex than merely asking to find out about problems, negative consequences of not solving those problems, and the pay-offs or positive results of solving those same problems.
And here are some examples:
The list of
questions does not stop here for your
questioning strategy. At times,
you may ask more or fewer number of
questions, depending on whom you are
meeting, as well as the context of your
Need help in finding out whatever your customer is willing or unwilling to share with you? Simply e-mail email@example.com or call +86-21-6219 0021 or WeChat: cydj001 and arrange to have a deeper discussion.
Power Breakfast Hour: 10 Mar 2016
How to Find Out Anything from Your Customers
VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 （靠法华镇路）
DATE: Thursday, 10 Mar 2016
TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
PRICE: RMB 200 ONLY!
To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations too firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips for Questioning Techniques:
Why You Should Ask Questions Like A 2-Year Old