The Most Important Question on a Sales Call

By John Aberle | Business Lifestyle

Feb 07
The Most Important Question

The most important question you can ask in sales or in consulting is, “Why?”

There’s one question that has served me extremely well in over six years as a small business consultant. It’s the same question that heart-centered, soft sell salespeople and marketers need to ask their customers and prospective customers. The most important question is, “Why?”

Sales scripts seek to control the sales call.

I’ve had salespeople and small business owners ask me about writing a script. I have used them successfully 18 years ago when it was a required part of the job. I didn’t like them then, and I really dislike them now. Other than to memorize an opening question to get you started so you can avoid being tongue-tied, scripts are designed to control the flow of questions so as to control the prospect.

That’s a hard sell approach to sales because it only cares about one thing, getting the prospect’s money. While I did well, I only lasted a short time at the job because I began to really question whether our product did what we said it did — despite the stack of testimonial letters the company gave me from around the country.

Heart-centered salespeople seek to see their customers’ viewpoints.

Following that experience, I returned to talking with prospects. Heart-centered, soft sell sales and marketing focus first on the customer’s needs and wants. While people may quickly tell you what they think they want, it’s very important to dig deeper to understand why. Nobody wants to look stupid so they will normally have an opinion based on some quick research or on what friends have told them.

Let the customer control the pace.

Their stated desires may be really good solutions so if they insist, despite your best efforts to learn more about their thinking, then go with your prospect’s wishes if you can or point them in the right direction. However, if they agree to discuss their choice with you, find out what they expect to get from that solution. Look for their real motivation — if you know a better product or service — ask if they’d be willing to consider alternatives. Provided they say yes, describe their other choices, the advantages of each based on what they want and need, then help your customers buy what will do the best job you can for them.

Examples of questions to gain insight

Here are some other questions to ask so that you don’t sound like a three year old child with constant why’s.
• “Please share with me how things will look to you when you ….”
• “What does that mean to you?”
• “How will that feel?”
• “Would you describe to me what you want this (product or service) to do for you.”
• “How important is it to you to fix this?” … “What happens if you don’t?”

I could go on and on with questions. These might not even be the best ones for a given prospect. What I hope you really get from this is that your heart-centered, soft sell goal is to be able to see through their eyes what they want to gain or avoid with this purchase. Develop a conversation, just like you would with a friend. Don’t rush to a close or even to recommend a product as the solution they need until you confirm you understand their situation and until they agree.

To have repeat sales, develop a relationship as a trusted adviser.

Heart-centered, soft sell sales and marketing are about connecting with your prospects. The most important question is “Why?” Use variations like I provided above to make a conversation instead of an interrogation, but ask why until you understand what they want and feel they need and how it will benefit them. Then you become a trusted adviser, a part of their team. When you help customers buy, you’ll find sales to be fun, fulfilling, and mutually rewarding.

What are your experiences with scripts?

Have you ever sold with a script? How did that feel to you? Have you ever sold by making a connection with your customer like I just described for heart-centered, soft sell sales calls? How did that feel to you? Have you ever been sold to and controlled by the sales rep’s script? How did that feel to you?


About the Author

My first Kindle eBook, How Relationship Selling Rewards Small Businesses, went live on April 24, 2012. I've lived a lifetime of service and spiritual search so it's natural for me to incorporate these attitudes into my work. I believe that selling and marketing are spiritual service when done with a heart-centered, relationship selling approach. All of business success comes down to building strong relationships.