In selling and in networking we are told that asking questions is the right thing to do.
And it is.
But how do you stop your questions turning into an interrogation of your prospect?
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- How long have you been doing that?
- Where is your office?
- How many staff do you have?
- What products do you sell?
- Who are your customers?
Create a ConversationWhen you ask questions you should to be aiming to create a conversation.
Sometimes if you get nervous it's tempting to keep asking questions -- as that sort of puts you in control of the communication flow, and gives you something to say.
But that can be dangerous, because the other person can easily lose interest if they think all you are doing is "digging for gold" -- looking for information you can use to sell to them.
Suddenly your prospect gets turned off and feels like they are being manipulated.
Share Information as You AskThe answer is to make sure you share information as you ask your questions.
Sounds simple... but in reality sharing information and maintaining a free flowing discussion is quite challenging.
You need to read the conversation and know when it is appropriate to add some extra information without interrupting what the other person is saying.
What sort of information can you add?
- Industry data or statistics
- Client success stories
- A personal anecdote
- Refer to a recent (and relevant) news story
- A snippet of detail about why you deliver your services/products they way you do
For networking: You want to know how you can help the other person, and how they may be related to your business activities (e.g. would they make a good referrer?).
For selling: You want to fully explore their situation and understand their requirements so you can effectively handle the sales discussion. And you need to know that before you present your products, services, or solutions to them.
Asking questions is very important.
Even more important is 'how' you ask the questions and your ability to maintain a free flowing conversation that allows you to be authentic and really get to understand the other person, their priorities, and their concerns.