By Casey Conrad
If there is one skill that has the most impact on a salesperson’s level of success it is by far the ability to ask a good question. I realize that’s a bold statement and many of you are already questioning it. While your brain is working through the analysis, let me give you some validation.
To start with, questions have the ability to engage a prospect in a conversation. This is a radical departure from the all too common monologue that accompanies many sales presentations. When a salesperson is doing all the talking it usually results in what I call “verbal vomit,” or feature dumping. “We have 25 of these and 87 of those, etc.“ Blah, blah, blah!
Of course, feature dumping is dangerous to any sales presentation because it often results in giving the prospect too much irrelevant information. This can make the prospect feel as though they are paying for aspects of a product or service that they don’t want or feel they need.
Therefore, by asking prospects questions, a salesperson can discover what things are most important to them and adjust their sales presentation accordingly. Below are two examples. The first is a classic feature-dumping statement while the second one exemplifies how asking questions can engage the prospect and sets up a discussion regarding the exact aspects of the club they desire.
- “Here at the club we have over 90 group exercise classes per week as well as all the cardio pieces so you can get a great workout any time of the day.”
- “May I ask, when given the choice do you prefer group exercise classes or machines to get your cardio workout in?” (Assume they say group exercise.)
“That’s great because we have over 90 classes here each week. In looking at this schedule which of the evening classes look most appealing to you?”
Second, questions have the ability to direct and control a prospect’s focus. For many prospects visiting a multi-purpose fitness facility can be overwhelming. They come through the door because something triggered them to think about beginning an exercise program but soon—due to the number of options and distractions—their focus can become unclear or even distorted. This change in focus almost always turns to price rather than value. By asking very specific questions regarding exercise history, goals and motivation and potential roadblocks to success, a salesperson can ensure that the prospects attention stays on them personally and not the facility or the price.
Third, by asking questions a salesperson receives valuable information as to whether or not their product or service is meeting the needs and wants of the prospect. In sales we refer to this as “feedback questions.” This means that after discussing a certain aspect of the facility with a prospect the salesperson asks some kind of question that requires the prospect to provide feedback.
For example, “Knowing the class schedule and the childcare hours, are you going to be able to make it in to the yoga class at least twice per week?” (Assuming they said they were interested in yoga.) An affirmative response sends a small but meaningful signal to the salesperson that this aspect of the membership is in alignment with the prospects needs and wants.
Fourth, and perhaps most significant, questions help a prospect to sell themselves on buying. The reality is that when someone tells us something there is a natural tendency to question its validity. This is particularly enhanced when speaking with salespeople because we believe they are trying to “sell us” something. Conversely, when a prospect replies to a question they are stating their own personal beliefs and obviously believe what they are saying. “Yes, the class schedule works for me.” “I think I’d like to start out with the basic yoga class.” “I will use the childcare services two mornings a week.” When a prospect makes these types of statements (in response to your questions), this is what is meant by “selling themselves.”
The key to getting good at asking questions is to condition yourself. Anytime you begin to make a statement about your product or service stop and turn it into a question. Therefore, instead of telling them we have X feature and this is what it does for you,” ask them, “Are you familiar with the X feature on our product?” If they say yes, ask them, “Do you mind my asking how you see that feature benefiting you?” If they say No, describe the feature and then ask the, “So, how do you see that benefiting you?’
When you really stop and analyze all the elements of a successful sales presentation it is grounded in questions.
- We ask pre-qualifying questions when we meet a prospect.
- We ask questions during the needs analysis.
- We ask “feedback” questions during the tour.
- We ask “alternate of choice” questions during the membership presentation.
- We use a 6-step questioning sequence to overcome objections.
Questions are the foundation for good sales skills. I encourage you to analyze your own sales presentation and ask yourself, “Am I really using questions to the best of my ability?” Most likely you can find ways to improve upon this skill and make more sales.
Casey Conrad, BA, JD, has been in the health and fitness industry for 26 years. She is the author of numerous club sales and marketing products. To access her free sales tips and videos please visit www.HealthClubSalesTraining.com. She can be reached at Casey@CaseyConrad.com.