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When you’re a salesperson, or really just a human in any role, there’s one word that you love more than any other. 

YES!

In most circumstances, we’re all hoping to hear an affirmative response to our questions, to our requests, and to our presentations. A little kid coming up with an elaborate reason for why they deserve a cookie isn’t very different than a salesperson pitching their product or service to a prospect.

We all want to hear yes.

But guess what, you’re not a kid and you might not deserve that cookie. 

A truly great salesperson doesn’t enter a sales conversation with the focus of trying to get their prospects to say yes. Of course, that’s what they probably hope to hear at the end of the conversation. But that’s not why they pick up the phone or sit at the table. They’re there to see if saying yes makes sense for both sides.

And they do that with questions.

But they don’t just ask any questions. And they certainly don’t ask leading questions. You know, the ones that are designed to only get one answer. 

When you ask your prospect something along the lines of, “don’t you wish that were better?” it’s really hard for them to say anything other than “yes.” Some of them might give a half-hearted shrug, but most will say, “sure, I wish it were better.” Who doesn’t want things to be better?

But that admission doesn’t mean:

  • that they want to buy from you, 
  • or that they’re ready to buy right now, 
  • or that you’re the right person to make it better for them.

That’s why the kind of questions you ask is so important. 

Instead of the leading question from earlier, you can ask that same question in a way that leaves it open for a full, honest answer. Let’s say that they more leads for their business.

“You said that you wish you had more leads. How would more leads help you?”

Your prospect can’t just say yes or no. It gives them the chance to explain why they want more leads, what they’re hoping to gain from more leads, and it confirms that more leads is what they actually want. 

They might say, “more leads would give us more business and then more money.”

Sure, that makes sense. But the conversation doesn’t end there. No matter how they answer, see if you can dig a little deeper. Most people think they want more money, but you might find out that more money would lead to more overhead that they’re not prepared for, and more leads wouldn’t be well-handled. It might turn out that more leads is not what they need, and they’d be better served by finding more qualified leads or raising their prices.

If you had stopped at, “sure, we wish we had more leads,” then they might be really unhappy when the work you do for them ends up putting more stress on them or causing them to actually lose money. 

The more you questions you ask, the deeper you’ll get into their problems, their hopes, and their needs. 

It might not seem that important to you that the end result matches their expectations or hopes. Maybe you just need to hit quota. We’ve all been there, but I can promise you, it’s not sustainable. Unless you work for a huge corporation that can afford to lose clients left and right or sells a turn and burn product, your focus should be much broader than just closing the deal. 

Qualification matters a lot, from both sides. You don’t want clients that are going to be unhappy or a pain to deal with. And they don’t want to buy from somebody that isn’t able to fulfill their needs. That’s what the discovery conversation is all about, discovering if you’re the right fit for each other. 

So in your next sales conversation, don’t worry about getting people to the yes, focus on getting them to the next question.

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