Direct Marketing Article
Effective Questioning Combats Centuries-Old
By Weldon Long
Since the dawn of mankind we have been buying and selling "stuff", and over
the centuries a predictable pattern has developed between buyers and
sellers. The buyer, seller dynamic can spell "commission catastrophe" for
the sales professional who lacks the artful skill of effective questioning.
The Old Way, The Buyer Stalls
Essentially the old way involves the purchaser following a reliable pattern
when choosing to come off his or her hard earned cash to buy something and
the unskilled seller who can easily fall victim to this insidious game.
The dynamic begins with buyer gaining as much information about the product
or service from the seller as possible. This information may include price,
warranties, financing options or delivery options.
Secondly, the buyer will withhold valuable information from the seller. For
example, if a buyer walks onto a car lot to buy her dream car, she is
unlikely to tell the salesperson that her old car just blew up and that she
has a pocket full of cash she’s just dying to spend. Instead, even if she
loves the sparkling new car on the showroom floor, she will keep her cards
close to her vest. After all, everyone knows that knowledge is power and
none of use want to give an advantage to the salesperson; thus, we keep our
Next, the buyer relies on the tried and true strategy of stalling in an
effort to put off spending her hard earned money. It’s not that the buyer
won’t spend the money, it’s just that given the choice, we all prefer to
postpone spending it as long as possible. Stalling also give the buyer the
opportunity to revisit competitive offerings one last time and maybe work
the seller over a bit on price.
Which brings us to the fourth step in this age, old game: The buyer asks for
a cheaper price. This step is as predictable as the sun rising over the
Atlantic. It is going to happen, even if the buyer likes the product or
service and thinks the price is fair. Remember, this process has been
ingrained in us for generations and no one writes a check without at least a
halfhearted attempt at getting a lower price.
While this series of steps is natural, it can devastate the income of a
seller who is not adept at derailing the process with effective questions.
For example, when the seller begins step, one, gathering information, an
inexperienced seller may begin randomly spewing information about how
wonderful his product or service is without ever probing for information of
his own. When the buyer begins step, two, withholding information, some
sellers may continue the information spewing routine, further saturating the
buyer with more information. When the buyer stalls in step, three, the
seller panics and begins offering concessions the buyer hasn’t even asked
for, and is then left with no defense when, in step, four, the buyer asks
for the lower price.
Sadly, this process is played out countless times everyday to the chagrin of
sellers who depends on commissions to pay the bills and business owners who
depend on decent margins to keep the doors open.
The New Way, The Seller Asks Questions
How can sales professionals avoid this pitfall, improve the probability of
closing the deal while maintaining sustainable margins and commissions?
The solution to this problem is the solution to almost any sales problem:
The first series of questions should be designed to uncover the hidden
emotions underlying the buyers’ needs and/or wants. This can easily be
accomplished by asking basic questions about the current problem facing the
buyer and then following up with a simple question or two about how the
buyer "feels" about the current situation or would "feel" about the benefits
of the proposed solution.
Once the buyer responds with an emotional term, you will know you are on the
trail of what is really driving the purchasing decision. That information
can skillfully be used to close the deal without having to resort to
dropping the price.
Another useful way to use questioning is by asking "Duh" questions and then
following up by asking, "Why do you say that?" This simple strategy simply
requires giving the buyer the answer before asking the question, then
benefiting from the classic influence strategy that "public declarations
dictate future actions."
A buyer is far more likely to take actions consistent with their statements.
Remember, public declarations dictate future actions. The seller merely has
to hold the buyer accountable to their own words and, bingo, the sale is
made and his wife and kids have enough money for groceries and mortgage.
Skillfully asking questions change the direction and the dynamic of a
centuries old buying, selling cycle. Our choice as sales professionals is
simple: Learn to use questions or learn to get by on smaller commissions. We
always have a choice, don’t we? What’s it going to be?
About the Author:
Weldon Long is the President and CEO of Wright Total Indoor Comfort, Inc, a
leading HVAC company in Colorado. Effective questioning is one of the skills
Weldon Long used to jumpstart his sales career and create an INC 5000
business. He now provides sales and motivational training to businesses and
volunteers his expertise and time with the formerly incarcerated. Weldon’s
memoir of building his business success from his final release from prison
after battling addictions is titled "The Upside of Fear" and has won several
book awards and critical acclaim. To contact Weldon to speak at your next
event contact him at
www.weldonlong.com or call 719.304.5300.