Issue Date: Sales Success Dec 15, 2008, Posted On: 12/12/2008
Road to the Sale: Qualifying: Is this a deal or a dud? When you engage a prospect during the earliest stages of the showroom visit, do you ask manipulative, long-winded "qualifying" questions? Or do you ask simple "do-based" questions that help you to gauge whether you should even be talking to this person?
There is a big difference. Here's an example of what a typical "qualifying question" sounds like, according to one supposed "expert" in sales training:
"Would you like some information about our dealership?"
Here's another example from a different trainer, posted proudly on an Internet web-site as an example of a great "qualifying" question:
"If you felt one of our vehicles could make feel safer, reduce your monthly car payments and at the same time, cost less to maintain, is this something that you would want to know more about?"
And here's another classic "qualifying question:"
"If you could change one thing about your current car, what would it be?"
There is a stubborn sales myth that has grown up around these types of questions. The myth is that they enable salespeople to build rapport with, and gain meaningful information from, the prospects they encounter in the dealership.
They don't. These kinds of questions turn prospects off and shut down lines of communication. If you doubt this, ask yourself how you would respond if you were asked one of these questions by someone who had either just called you on the telephone or had sent you an e-mail. Would you instantly open up to the other person?
Would you say: "Yes, please - do me a favor and share whatever information about your dealership you feel is appropriate for my situation."
Would you say: "You know what? If buying a car from you could really do all those things you say, I really would want to find out more. Not only that, I'd want to start filling out paperwork right now."
Would you say: "I'm glad you asked that - I was hoping a total stranger would ask to discuss the one thing about my current car that I would change. It gets lousy gas mileage."
Of course, you wouldn't say any of those things. You'd probably say something noncommittal or vaguely polite. But you wouldn't be likely to share all the information about your situation that you knew and that the salesperson doesn't know.
That's because these kinds of elaborate "qualifying" questions are not really based on what the customer does. They're based on what we, as salespeople do. We have to share information about our dealership. We have to convey the benefits of our vehicle line. We have to set ourselves apart from the competition. Prospects, however, are not interested in doing any of those things. They're interested in their own situation.
When we ask briefly and directly about what the other person does, we are much more likely to get some kind of indication of his or her actual situation and we're also more likely to determine whether that person truly has an interest in talking to us.
Here's an example of a simple "do-based" question that gets right to the heart of the matter:
"Just out of curiosity - have you ever driven a Cadillac before?"
By asking this kind of question, we not only engage the other person, we also encourage him or her, in an unthreatening way, to share a relevant experience. That story, if we hear it, will be built around what the customer actually does. When we hear that story, we will be in a much better position than we were to gauge the other person's true level of interest.
When asking questions early in the relationship, focus on simple questions that illuminate what the other person actually does. Use those kinds of questions to engage. And skip the silly, manipulative questions that some of the "experts" out there try to get you to ask at the beginning of the sales process.