It’s too easy to assume that you know what customers want most. If you’ve been in an industry or sold the same product solution for several years, it’s virtually impossible to not have preconceived notions about your customer’s needs.
The best way to avoid assuming is to ask good questions and listen to their responses.
What is most important to you? This seems far too easy, but this question can open up a meaningful dialogue with the company’s decision influencer. The key to getting real discovery is two-fold: listen with comprehension and ask follow-up questions.
Listening requires effort and concentration. Put distractions going on in the environment aside and focus totally on their answers.
Asking the right questions requires some advanced thought. When you ask questions, listen closely to their answers: What issues or concerns do they bring up first? What problem seems to be top of the mind for them? What do they talk about most? What are they reluctant to discuss? Which topics do you bring up that get their interest? What opportunities are they excited to talk about the most? What points do they repeat in the conversation?
A few years ago, I was on a joint call with a coaching client who wanted feedback on his selling. During the 30-minute sales call, the seller repeatedly missed what mattered most to his customer. So, I asked his customer about it, and he confirmed that safety was a significant initiative in the company, coming down from the CEO!
My client eventually followed up on our conversation with his customer and won the sale, in part because he linked his value to considerable concerns about safety.
Listening Comprehension is essential in selling. So is asking follow-up questions to get your customer to share specifics with you.
Let’s take the safety example on my joint sales call. You can begin by asking, “What is important to you when it comes to safety?” Then try asking, “What specific safety measures are at the top of your list?” Or say something like I did with my client’s customer, “You’ve mentioned the importance of safety a few times in our conversation; what safety capabilities are most important to you in this project?” Then I might ask, “Are there additional safety issues that will be important to the other stakeholders of this project?”
You see, you want to drill down far enough until the customer gets sufficiently specific so that you can create a compelling value proposition linking back to their decision drivers. I knew going in that everyone wants safety, but customers buy safety for different reasons, requiring a deeper dive into their unique situation.
Find your customer’s unique reasons. Ask the right questions and listen with comprehension.