Inquisitive vs Interogation

In sales, there’s a fine line between simply being inquisitive and conducting an interrogation. The consequences of stepping over this line could cost you the sale, lose you business or – worse yet – lose you a loyal customer for life.

The key to staying on the right side of this line lies in the questions you ask and, especially, how you ask them. The following five tips will help you make sure you’re perceived as being helpfully inquisitive rather than an uncompromising interrogator, and help you improve your delivery when it comes to asking those all-important sales questions.

1. Pause and listen

Let’s be honest – do you really listen to what your customers have to say, or are you just catching your breath between questions? If that sounds a little too familiar, try counting silently to three (at a regular speaking pace!) every time your prospect finishes talking. This will give them enough time to gather their thoughts and continue what they were saying if they haven’t finished, while also not being long enough to seem awkward if they are done talking and are simply waiting for your response.

2. Provide a small compliment before each question

Before you ask your next question, make sure to thank your prospect for the information they already provided in response to your previous one. It’s not always easy for a prospect to open up, especially in the early stages of your relationship. If they have been generous with their information, thank them for being open. If they ask a great question, thank them for it.

3. Take notes

Writing notes signifies to the client that you care about what they are telling you and consider it important enough to write down. Clients will trust you more if you make notes.

4. Ask for clarification

To make sure you remember the details as well as the substance of what a customer is telling you, ask for clarification any time they say something you don’t fully understand. Remember, in sales, your best friends are “why?” “how?” and “what?”. Use them often to get additional information from your customers – and don’t forget to document their answers!

5. Echo and paraphrase

They say that you never really understand something until you have to teach it to someone else. To be certain you really understand what a customer is telling you, repeat it back to them, using your own words and interpretation. End with a question to gain their confirmation that your understanding is correct.

Experts agree that the most successful sales people listen 70% of the time, and talk only 30%. Last week’s tip combined with today’s gives you the  tools to get the information you need from your prospects, create an open dialogue – and start building long-term profitable relationships with your customers. Make sure you try at least one listening idea this week.

Dedicated to increasing your sales,

Colleen Francis