Most sales people know enough to ask questions. And every sales person has heard a thousand times to listen more than they speak. However, most sales people interrogate rather than interview. The difference is; interrogating is about the sales person, and interviewing is about the prospect or C-level executive.
Interviewing questions open up C-levels and other prospects to reveal the triggers that will cause them to buy from that interviewer. Most prospects donât try to keep secret their information. They usually never have an opportunity to expose it because the sales person takes over with interrogative questions.
Interrogative questions are self-serving. They are used to see if the prospect is interested in buying or choosing the interrogator, i.e., âIs this service (or product) something that youâd consider buying?â or âWhen will you be approving your software purchase?â Or, âWhatâs the budget? Has it been approved, yet?â Or âWhoâs the competition?â Or âHow can we help you with your software problems?â
These are all âIâ or âmeâ questions. Executives want the discussion to be about them and theyâll deflect the âIâ questions with ambiguous answers, stopping sales people in their tracks. This usually causes the interrogator to go into âconvince mode.â That is, they try to explain why itâs so important for the executive to have their service/product. Trying to convince is annoying to the executive because there is no empathy. Empathy sounds like this; âNow I see what youâre really up against.â
Then there are the intrusive, interrogative questions, such as âHow are you controlling productivity now?â or âWhy are you using a manual system?â And the answer is, or should be, âWell, itâs none of your darn business.â These questions are sure to put executives on the defensive, which they donât like, and they again deflect by saying, âEverything is fine. Weâll get back to you.â
So to interview C-level executives and other prospects and get them on your side, try the following.
1. Frame your opening questions around the individual and end it with âas it relates toâ¦(your business)â. My favorite (after the greetings and cordialities) is, âSo tell me, what are your issues or concerns as it relates to generating more sales?â My business is sales and Iâd like to know how he sees his selling situation.
2. Donât worry that the person doesnât know what you can do for him. Once he knows you know his issues, heâll be open to listen.
3. Watch and listen to a good interviewer on TV, YouTube or Radio. Notice how they ask questions and listen to the person. Then, they dig deeper, asking the person to explain further the meaning of the answers. Notice how they donât interrupt, yet keep the person on track. Notice also how they are not trying to push their own agenda.
4. Itâs important to role play with an associate, supervisor or coach. Be open-minded. You are probably not asking in the manor you think youâre asking. Record youâre session and listen to yourself. You will be amazed.
5. Notice how sales people work with you. Do they probe to see what you want, why you want it, and what the perfect solution for you would be? Or do they show you what they have and tell you how youâll love it.
6. Develop a set of standard question you can ask any executive centered around the executiveâs world; about the executive herself, her responsibilities, her issues and her future. Your question must illicit what youâd like to know about her visions (as it relates to your solutions), her paths to these visions, the details of the perfect solution, etc. Again, donât worry she doesnât know what you have to offer. She knows what she has and where she wants to go. Youâll have to do the fitting.
7. Practice your opening interview questions in front of a mirror. Try my favorites structured around your style. Practice how youâll get the executive to clarify what she means by the power words she uses? For example, when she says she wants someone reliable, you say, âYou mentioned you wanted someone reliable. What does reliable look like to you?â or âExplain your meaning of reliable.â
8. Prepare yourself to listen. Practice closing your mouth and listening to others with an ear to understand. Stop and think before talking to determine if youâre interrupting. If so, donât stop her, because once you do, it becomes all about you.
Remember once C-level executives and prospects feel itâs about you, they want to run. Once they feel you understand their situations, they become very open to listening to you.
And now I invite you to learn more.
Bonus Tip: FREE E-book Getting Past Gatekeepers and Handling Blockers . If you canât get to the powerful decision makers, youâre depending on others to do your selling at the high levels. The problem is you wonât know what they say, if they say anything at all.
Sam Manfer is the leading expert on selling to CEOâs and other influential people â doctors, govât officials, etc. Sam is a sales strategist, entertaining key note speaker and author of TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER$, The Complete Guide to C-Level Selling. That is, getting to and influencing top level decision-makers. Sam makes it easy for any sales person to generate quality leads, and become a 70% closer. Grab your FREE E-Books, Videos, Articles and other Advanced Sales Training Tips at www.sammanfer.com
Bonus Tip: FREE E-book âGetting Past Gatekeepers and Handling Blockersâ