Stop Selling — Start Connecting
Jill Konrath, sales strategist and best-selling author, shares insights on how good conversations lead to more sales.
“Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks about buying your product or service,” says Jill Konrath, a self-described sales nerd.
But wouldn’t it be nice.
Sales reps everywhere are facing increased pressure to sell more products and close more deals. But it’s harder than ever to get prospects to buy your pitch.
And that’s where the problem lies.
Selling shouldn’t be about pitching your product. It should be about having authentic, meaningful conversations. The kind that gets prospects talking about what they really need. And why.
It all starts with asking the right kind of questions. And then listening — really listening — to what they say.
We sat down for a conversation with Jill, who shared insights about how to ask good questions and get good answers. We invite you to listen in.
Learn the difference between the two types of sales questions
Questions are an integral part of any sales process. Learning to ask the right kind is what sets the best sales reps apart.
Jill explains that there are two types of questions in sales: qualifying questions and relationship-building questions. Most reps never get beyond the qualifying kind. But we need to, because that’s where we’ll find the most success.
Qualifying questions are important for determining if a sale is even possible. So we ask if they have the money in their budget. If they have the right technology. And so on. But those aren’t the questions that pull people in.
Relationship-building questions, on the other hand, do. They probe deeper into what’s going on in their business, dig into what they really need, and begin to build trust.
While your prospects don’t wake up thinking they need to buy what you’re selling, they do wake up wondering how they’ll solve a particular problem. How they’re going to achieve a goal with fewer people or in a faster turnaround time.
Asking questions that delve into these areas can make all the difference between making the sale and walking away empty handed.
Ditch the pitch for authentic conversation
Unfortunately, a lot of prospects hear a sales pitch as “blah, blah, blah” because we end up talking at them — not with them. We often blast through a checklist of questions and talking points, and rarely pause to hear something interesting our prospects might say. Or even offer the chance for them to chime in.
When that happens, there’s no opportunity to listen and learn, and then dig deeper into ways we can help.
But that’s where the magic happens. If you learn to ask open-ended questions, then stop to listen, you’ll foster richer conversations, learn more about their needs, and be able to offer more relevant solutions.
The key is to ask empathetic questions. Address your prospect’s challenges — as a person, not a business. Think about their frustrations and how those might impede their business goals. And use your own curiosity. If something strikes you as interesting, follow up to learn more.
“The essence of questions is that when people start talking to you, they start feeling a connection to you that transcends the actual conversation,” says Jill. “And they start feeling like you’re on their side.”
Get comfortable with silence
The key to getting good answers is to listen. Once you ask a question, leave space for them to answer. Research shows that it can take 8-to-10 seconds to formulate a good answer, so no matter how awkward the silence feels, resist the urge to fill it with talk. Chances are, they’ll fill it for you.
“The average salesperson will ask a question and they’ll wait two-to-three seconds max for the response, and at the end of two-to-three seconds, that silence is just screaming at them. So they’ll start talking,” Jill says. “They’ll either rephrase the question, they’ll pose another question, or they’ll start blathering on and on about their product and service or something that they think is relevant.”
But giving them time to think and share their thoughts will provide a depth of information you might never have gotten if you had dominated the conversation.
Make the time for conversation. It pays off in the end
Granted, yes or no answers are quick and efficient. But they’re also fairly shallow. So while it’s more time-consuming — and sometimes harder — to ask open-ended, relationship-building questions, the benefits are worth it.
But you have to do your homework. Jill suggests making a questions map before your meeting, so you have a guide to help you keep the conversation going. This will result in a deeper conversation and a more personal connection.
“If you get your prospect thinking, they actually like you better and think you’re a smarter salesperson and are more credible as a resource.”
Adobe can help
Technology solutions, such as Adobe Sign, can also help. Adobe Sign creates an all-digital sales process that streamlines workflows and eliminates the runaround involved in getting signatures. Approvals are easier, contracts are signed faster, and everyone has a better experience. Most importantly, when you automate this part of the job, you free up time for what really matters — sitting down with prospects, solving problems, and nurturing client relationships.