Every salesperson talks
about "Closing the sale." The best salespeople understand that before you can
close the sale, you must open it.
"Opening" means using well
designed and delivered questions to thoroughly uncover as many aspects of the
buying decision as possible. Too many salespeople mistakenly concern themselves
with only the technical aspects of the sale, and neglect entirely some of the
Most competitors are able
to meet the prospect's technical needs. The sale often goes to the supplier
who takes the time to understand the personal and situational aspects of the
I made a joint sales call
with a client's salesperson which illustrates this important skill.
After measuring the area
and recording the specs for some new equipment the prospect was interested in,
the salesperson I was coaching said to the prospect, "I'll fax you a proposal
in a couple days, OK?" He had done an excellent job of noting the technical
requirements, but a non-existent job of "opening " the sale. As the salesperson
was preparing to leave, I intervened and asked the following "opening" questions.
In order to qualify the
prospect, I asked, "What's the possibility of you ordering this within the next
few weeks? " His response? "None at all. I'm just collecting information for
The salesperson would have
vainly tried to close a sale that was never opened! He didn't realize that because
he didn't take the time, nor have the courage, to correctly open the sale.
Here are the rest of the
questions I asked.
"What's your situation?"
The answer to this helps
you understand the underlying motivations for the prospect, and gives you a
broad view of the pressures on him/her. The more you understand the situation
from the prospect's perspective, the more prepared you are to close the sale.
"What are you looking for
in a proposal?"
This is a simple question
that so many salespeople neglect to ask. It helps you understand specifically
what interests your prospect. Don't assume you know the answer. You may be surprised!
In my illustration, the
salesperson assumed the prospect wanted a quick, thorough proposal. That assumption
almost killed the sale.
Delivered with the right
tone of voice (friendly and concerned), "Why" questions can be powerful tools
for you and the prospect to understand the motivation for his/her interest,
as well as the thought processes that led him to you. A "why" question can also
frequently reveal some other approach to the problem and provide you with opportunities
for other solutions.
"How will the decision
The answer to this question
helps you understand the decision-making process and thus deal with the customer
in the way he/she wants to be dealt with.
All of these "opening"
questions pave the way for you by further revealing the prospect's situation,
motivations, interests and processes.
If you take the time to
prepare them and have the courage to use them, you will gain sharper insights
into the mind of the prospect and the situation he/she is in. Doing so will
provide you far more information with which to close the sale when the time
The best "closers" are often
those salespeople who take the time to properly "open" the sale.