One of the more difficult aspects of sales is letting go of our natural need for approval and asking the tough questions that lead prospects to make a decision. The conflict between our “need to be liked” and our “need to get the sale” is often at the core of our resistance to asking the tough questions. You can’t always have both, and that’s why it’s hard. But letting your need to be liked get in the way of productive sales conversations will cost you time and money.
How can you overcome this natural conflict?
First, separate your role as a sales person from your identity as a person. Don’t take the resistance you encounter or the discomfort generated by asking tough questions personally.
Second, understand that asking tough questions – questions that challenge your prospect to look at something they do not want to consider, questions that move them out of their comfort zone, questions that force them to look at their business and their current situation from a new vantage point – will create urgency and compel them to make a decision.
Third, remember that a “fast no” is better than a “long maybe.” We work so hard to get an appointment and earn the opportunity to make our pitch. It’s natural to want to keep the conversation going, even if we’re getting strung along with a long maybe (“…this looks interesting, let me think about it.”). You’ll save yourself and your prospective client a lot of time by asking a few pointed questions that compel them to make a decision – even if that decision is a NO for now.
How much more productive will your sales process be if you ask questions that create “decision urgency” and enable you to focus your valuable time on prospects where you quickly discover a compelling reason to move forward? What are the tough questions you can ask for your solution and what do you need to do to ask them earlier in the conversation? Do your questions hit the key business issues that business owners worry about (increasing revenue, decreasing costs, improving efficiency, etc.)? Can you personalize these questions with a simple follow up such as “What is it costing your company to NOT address this issue? What does this mean to you personally?”
Develop your arsenal of questions and use them. You will be a more effective sales person, and you will see your sales cycle shorten because you will be helping those prospects who just can’t say “No,” to make that decision quicker. This, in turn, will allow you to spend time with prospective clients who are truly interested in what you have to offer.