Vulnerability: Your New Best Friend

Maybe you’ve heard me speak about the power of great questions during the sales process. If you haven’t, here’s the rundown: questions will eliminate the guesswork and ensure you earn the privilege to recommend your products and services. Typically, the reason that sales professionals don’t maximize their opportunities is that they raise inappropriate questions — or none at all.

Given that people make buying decisions based on emotion rather than logic, it’s absolutely paramount that your prospect expresses emotion during the questioning process. This simple three-stage questioning technique is a tried and tested approach.

What is your plan?

Always start with the biggest possible question. For example, you might say, “Explain to me your plan for the business?” This usually results in fifteen minutes of feedback, which will clarify the big picture and hopefully reveal the business owner’s goals. The key is to keep the question broad rather than specific.

Your product offering will only affect part of their plan, and if you don’t understand it all, it can be difficult to know where you’d fit. Look for the details and steer toward an emotional response whenever possible. This series of questions should first seek to attain the “what?” followed by the “why?” If the plan includes luxuries, get specifics, as these become very valuable when closing.

How will you feel?

Once you understand where they plan on going with their business, it’s important to understand how they will feel once they get there. This information is not difficult to retrieve. Simply ask, and then listen to their answer.

You will need to dig a little here to access the emotions, such as pride and euphoria, that make this technique really powerful. Encourage strong adjectives and emotional vulnerability, and don’t accept weak responses like “I’ll feel pretty good” or “okay.”

What are the consequences if you fail?

We are more motivated to avoid a loss than to make a gain. With this reality in mind, this questioning technique concludes with this final enquiry, which discovers the source of your prospect’s pain and allows you to agitate it a little. Most people don’t give sufficient consideration to failure, and asking this question forces them to think about disappointment and defeat. Once people have clearly visualised a total breakdown, they will avoid it at all costs.

This technique works by establishing your prospect’s plans, clearly detailing the exhilarating experience of overwhelming achievement, and momentarily forcing them to experience the pain of collapse. I often describe it as painting utopia, checking their ego, and rubbing salt into a wound. The good news is that once you’ve bruised them a little, your presentation should be the best medicine. If you get these processes right, you will win more business!

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