Many people in sales, even those that readily accept the idea that asking questions is an important part of their sales process, do not fully understand why this is so very important to their success.

The reason is simple. Questions change perception.

When you look into the mirror of history—as it relates to the selling profession—the reflection of the salesperson is not always a pretty picture.

The “inconvenient truth” is that it doesn’t matter if you are in sales, politics, religion, or many other professions; there have been enough shady characters practicing the same trade that they still give the rest of us a bad reputation.

Those shining examples of deception will mislead their intended audience, misstate the truth, and manipulate any details to achieve their end game. The result? Those in the same field who are truly people of great character and integrity find themselves having to overcome the baggage of the shysters.

I used to get really upset with politicians in particular. I was convinced that regardless of party affiliation, many did not even believe their own statements. They were simply pandering to their audience in return for their votes.

Then, finally, one day I began to study linguistics. I found some clarity and comfort in understanding the origins of the word politics.

The word politics is actually a combination of two root words: poly (which means many) and ticks (which means blood-sucking parasites).

Finally, it all made sense to me.

Today’s successful sales professional usually does not fit the mold of the traditional “salesman.” Most have the desire to become a trusted ally with their prospect. Most have a heart that moves them toward making sure that their client wins in the transaction as much as they do. Additionally, the superstar salesperson is committed to adding greater value on the client’s side of the equation. My friend Bob Burg’s book, The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea, is a must read when it comes to getting a clear picture of how the relationship between a business owner/sales professional and their client should look. Click the link to take a quick look.

Knowing the challenge you face in overcoming your prospect’s perception of salespeople in general, what can you do to earn your credibility?

First, set your top priority as helping your client solve their issues.

Second, be a person of integrity in every aspect of your relationship by doing what you say you will do—and then some.

And third, use questions that will have an impact, in the eyes of your prospect, and will move them into a discussion where they express their specific needs.

Why are questions so important in the sales process?

Questions—especially open-ended questions that may not be answered with yes/no answers—will normally elicit conversations and responses. They also give you the information you need to make informed and valuable recommendations to your prospect.

But I think the single greatest reason we should ask well-thought-out questions is to overcome the prospect’s preconceived ideas of what a salesperson truly is.

In the beginning of the relationship, you have not earned your credibility with them. You haven’t yet had the opportunity to earn a favorable impression in their eyes. Therefore, you are a “salesman” (unfortunately, yes, even you ladies will also be “salesmen” in their eyes at this point). And since you are a “salesman,” what you say is not readily accepted as being the truth.

That is why it is useless for you to tell a prospect what you believe their needs to be—and it is exactly why canned sales presentations do not work very effectively.

However, if you know your industry well, you most likely know many of the most common needs that will be expressed by your potential clients. You should work to develop high-impact questions that will initiate good conversations with your prospect. Those questions should guide them into expressing those needs to you. It will always be more effective for your sales process if the client tells you what they need—rather than you telling them what they need.

As the salesperson, what you say may be “suspect.” However, as the decision maker, what the prospect says is “gospel.”

“Your mission is to develop some great questions which result in your prospect verbalizing their needs and some potential solutions, which coincidentally happen to be provided by what your product or service has to offer.”

– Jeff C. West

Okay, complicated—not so much. Powerful—absolutely!

I’ll give you some guidance on just how to do that on my next article.

Bestselling Co-Author of The Go-Giver, and author of Endless Referrals, Bob Burg, said, “The Unexpected Tour Guide combines an entertaining story with some of the best teaching you’ll ever receive on how to become a hugely successful sales professional.”

Have you read it? CLICK HERE