Construction equipment sales people need to go beyond product knowledge and dig deep into a customer’s problems, advises sales trainer Troy Harrison with Troy Harrison International.
“One of the most important skills in selling is the ability to ask great questions,” Harrison said, speaking at the Associated Equipment Distributors Summit annual conference last week.
There are several goals to asking the right questions, including understanding the buyer, the company’s decision-making process and finding out how they define success. One of the best ways is to use open-ended probing questions, Harrison says, ones that cannot be answered by a yes or no. ”Scary questions produce the best answers,” he says. “The worst question is the one you don’t ask.”
Harrison recommends construction equipment sales people walk in with written questions. Not only does it help keep you on track, “you’ll never get in trouble for preparation,” he says.
First, your questions should center around getting to know the big picture, including the company’s history, growth plans, goals, and your contact’s professional history. Then you can dive into small-picture questions, such as who do they buy from, what they like and dislike about their current vendors and what they would like to improve.
“Once you ask these questions, you will know more than an incumbent vendor who’s gotten complacent,” Harrison says.
Customer knowledge king
“Product knowledge is not king; today, it’s customer knowledge,” Harrison continues. “The more you know about customers, the better you’ll be able to sell to them.”
One way to be memorable is to use questions that have what Harrison calls a “power lead in.” Some examples include:
- What have you found…
- How do you evaluate…
- How do you define…
- How have you successfully used…
- What criteria do you use…
“When they have to stop and think before they answer, you know it’s a great question, and that you’re probably the first sales person to hear it.”
Then drill down: ask a client why they think something happened. Get all the way down until you feel like you have the information you need. Then ask the key question: How did this affect you personally? “Help the customer relive the pain, and then tell him how you can help,” Harrison says.
And it may turn out that your contact isn’t the final go-to on the purchase decision. One way to determine this is to ask the question: “Tell me about your business decision-making process… .”
It depersonalizes it if your contact is not the right guy, and you can then ask, “When can we meet with everyone?”
End the meeting with a catch-all question: is there anything else I should know before we move forward.? “Usually, there’s no answer,” Harrison says, “but when they do answer, what they say is very important, so pay close attention. It will be something that impacts your ability to sell.”
Questions are the backbone of your sales, Harrison contends. He advises sales people to create a question structure for their calls, and to do their homework. Visit the client’s website, look at their LinkedIn profile, but still ask the questions.
In fact, Harrison says this technique is so powerful, he advises sales managers to ask their team to bring in new questions to a sales meeting. “If you work to be great questioners, you’ll be great sales people,” he says.