Listening is now more important than ever for a sales professional, but do we truly understand why it’s so important? The psychology behind asking questions; the right questions, is vital for the success of your approach.
So we dive into the psychological understandings of asking questions and the timing of them.
Starting at the root of questioning there lays the general guideline that the person who asks the most questions is in fact controlling the situation. Taking that from a prospective client’s point of view, that’s pretty intimidating isn’t it?
We want to control the situation, of course we do it’s what we’ve been endlessly told time and time again but you need to hand over that control to the customer.
Once the customer feels secure and safe, then it’s far more likely that you’ll be able to advance further with the opportunity.
As you listen more you get the opportunity to ask more questions, these questions are probing and qualifying helping you understand both the situation and customer even more. The catch? You need to make sure that the right questions are getting asked at the right moment.
Don’t underestimate the need for perfect timing when asking those questions as you’ll see explained below:
When you ask questions that probe or seek out more information it starts to signal and show to the customer that you’re in fact listening and interested.
We all gauge the conversation and where it’s headed by the level of concern or interest the other party is paying, the ultimate gesture or sign of concern is to pay attention only to the customer.
Consider how probing your questions are and then consider how much more probing they become if the customer hasn’t seen you as a respected person or built any rapport with you. This is down to the timing, if you ask the deep questions at the beginning and you’re in invading their privacy.
What happens when you struggle to understand a product or problem? You ask yourself questions in attempt to discover an answer.
Now when you’re questioning the customer at the right moment you’ll be promoting all of the thought processes needed behind making a purchase or the most important part; convincing themselves this is a perfect purchase.
You need to remember that it’s not you who convinces the customer, they convince themselves. When the decision to buy happens it’s down to the fact you asked those thought provoking questions and timed them perfectly.
What makes you consider someone to be a credible expert? It’s the questions they can answer but more importantly it’s the questions they ask you.
Think of the last time you spoke to someone that you considered an expert, chances are everything you stored mentally is down to the fact they asked you probing questions that required you to fill in the blanks (more on this further down).
Questions not only portrait you as a master of your field but it gives you credibility that you are the go-to person for product advice, guidance and future endeavours.
As an example consider stock traders and their ability to tell you about future trends, balance sheets and the industry as a whole – the knowledge they show is often taken in by surrounding admirers which results in the expert tag.
How Do Questions Work?
The human mark-up has given us the undeniable need to answer questions to the point it has become reflex like. This has worked its way from the deep down need to feel or see a form of completion – i.e. finished project, finished sentence etc.
Think of a joke without a punch line, this is the same effect a question has on us. This is exactly what you want with the questioning process; you need to ensure that the questions you ask are giving the customer the opportunity to fill in the blanks and start to convince that they are in fact making the right decision.
If something is incomplete it’s not certain to function or do whatever it needs to do, this plays into the hands of purchase and long term risk – few customers can handle this especially when they have their job on the line.
Another aspect to consider is the rule of 3 –
If we start, stop and start something the human mind can only effectively handle 3 nested in-completions.
Ask the right questions and you can give the customer the opportunity to fill in the blanks.
Questions stimulate the brain – the new brain or neocortex – which is responsible for sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning & conscious thoughts in humans and language.
Why does this matter? If you can build trust and show that you’re “safe” then asking the questions which may normally be considered a bit too much are now easily & happily answered.
We have mental filters and defences in our brain that decides to store, delegate or throw away the information we receive. Surveys are a great example, we feel in tune with answering the questions however give it 5 minutes and we’ll forget we answered anything.
The power of questioning cannot be underestimated – it builds relationships, moves the sales cycle and ultimately it decides on who gets the customers’ business. If you can align your questioning to the customers “language” then you’ll find it far easier to start asking the exclusive questions