No matter what selling method you use—consultative selling, counselor selling, challenger selling, or strategic selling—at some point the prospect or customer will ask you a question—or two or three. How we react and respond at this moment will determine our success level.
Questions are an indication of several things:
- Increased curiosity
- An expression of doubt or skepticism
- Genuine interest and desire to determine the usefulness of your product/service
- A reaction to something you said that they don’t understand
- A desire on their part to prove you’re wrong or shoot holes in your claims
When the customer or prospect asks that question, he will watch you very carefully—to determine if you are being relevant, honest, and helpful. He will notice if your answer is manipulative or “wrenching.” He’ll know if you’re really saying, “My answer is just me working my sales process on you.”
Our answers to these critically important questions determine our success. To some extent, questions from prospects or customers are windows of opportunity that open, briefly, that we need to capitalize on.
There are several ways to answer a question, each with predictable results. These include:
- Answer a question with a question as in, “Before I answer that, may I ask why that’s important to you at this time?” or “First, can I ask you a few quick questions, so I can give you a better, more specific answer?”
- Give a patented answer that is loaded with value- and benefit-oriented phrasing.
- Give an answer that is somewhat relevant but rambling, unfocused and centered on what’s important to you and your company and not on what matters most to the customer.
- Use the SalesGym’s unique CPET process that is relevant, generates curiosity, credibility and gets you control of the sales process—with a good question at the right moment.
From testing thousands of salespeople in live training events all over the world for the past twenty years, the two most common approaches by far are 2 and 3. These seem to come most naturally for salespeople, not necessarily because they work best, but because they’re comfortable using them. Too often, salespeople are most comfortable when they’re talking. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult to control the sales process.
Answering a question with a question (approach #1) can work well, but if we use it too often, it can begin to look evasive. At some point, you still have to answer the question. Unfortunately, that often leads back to approaches 2 and 3.
The CPET Process
Let’s take a look at this unique process, which we have found, through extensive testing, to be the most effective, results-producing method of all. CPET stands for:
- Cushion = A a short, cushioning statement like, “Thanks for asking that, Bill.” or “That’s a great question a lot of our customers ask.” or “I’m glad you asked that because…” The cushion is critical because it allows the customer to know we appreciate the question and are going to answer it and it gives us a quick moment to prepare our answer.
- Prompter Statement = These are short transition phrases that get us QUICKLY into the mode of talking about what matters most to prospects and customers in an interesting way. For example: “I was speaking with a customer the other day that told me…” or “Here’s what our customers tend to say when it comes to… or “Some of the clients I have would answer that by saying…”
- Customers and prospects typically are curious about what your other customers and clients have to say. The prompter statement, when used correctly, puts you into storytelling mode. Typically, this will animate your message and add energy to the interaction.
- Explain the details = This is where you fill in the details of what your clients or customers think when it comes to the question you were asked. It is critically important that these details are highly relevant, reasonably concise, and focused on an element(s) of your value proposition and/or differentiating factors.
- Transition Question (usually open ended) = It is critically important, at the end of an answer, to have a good question at the end that your answer flows naturally into. Usually, it is best if that question is open-ended and ties into your value proposition and/or differentiating factors.
Getting In Shape
There’s a lot to this powerful technique. The practice coaches in the SalesGym, along with the CPET workouts, can give you many demonstrations of exactly how to use it.
The most important core selling language you must have total command of is your value proposition and differentiating factors. There is no way to answer any question in an effective way without strong command of these details and the ability to communicate them in an interesting way. That’s where practice and training must begin.
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