You probably already know that the salesperson should research customer needs and problems to properly adress them. If you are wondering what this research might look like on a daily basis, in this article you will find some tips about what to ask during a sales conversation.

The reason why people agree to spend their precious time talking to you

We are bombarded with a lot of information on a daily basis. Your company is not unique in its market either. Even so, some very busy person (everyone feels they are very busy) has decided to contact you. There was a mysterious factor that convinced them to talk to you rather than complete other important duties. It is in your interest to find out if this was:

  • a problem that motivated the client to look for support on the Internet and contact several similar companies,
  • a sentence in the cold email you sent that they really liked (perhaps this particular sentence should be used more often),
  • specific information visible on your website that attracted the prospect etc.

It may also turn out that the potential client will say “I’m looking for someone to write me a business plan”. It is possible that your company does not deal with creating business plans, but conducts trainings on setting goals. Or, your company does not write business plans in particular but advises on what such business plan should look like. It will teach you that during a business talk you should describe exactly what is included in the support bought by the customer. “But when I signed the contract, I thought…” – such situations are better prevented than treated.

By asking a question: “Why did you decide to contact us? / why did you reply to our cold email?” you will learn:

1) how the customer perceives your company,

2) what the prospect knows about your product and a possible solution,

3) what exactly encouraged the potential client to invest time in talking to you.

Where the customer found you

Salespeople: “We have too few leads, and the ones that we have are usually of poor quality”.

The first step to increasing the number of leads salespeople won’t complain about is identifying where they came from. That includes checking whether a potential customer found out about our company on a webinar, or if we have been recommended by someone or whether the contact is a merit of advertising on Facebook only. Without systematic measurement of this information, it will be difficult to obtain more accurate diagnosis than:

“When it comes to valuable leads, they come mainly from recommendations. And sometimes from a search engine. How many search leads are there? Oh, it’s hard to say… ”.

The more often you forget to ask this question, the harder it will be to tell which activities your marketing should invest its efforts in.

By asking a question: “How did you find our company?” you will learn:

1) where leads valuable for your business come from

What the client does to solve their problem

Competition is not only about another company selling simmilar solution in your industry. It is also the everyday reality that the client struggles with.

Example: A company offers time-measuring software

Currently, the client’s employees measure time manually. So every employee has their own excel sheet, which they fill out at the end of the day. Sometimes they do it right, sometimes mistakes happen. The company tries to analyze the data, but it takes time to draw conclusions from the raw numbers. Errors also happen during the analyzes. So now a potential client:

  • measures employees’ time using Excel and manual work,
  • doesn’t always have time to translate the data into real changes,
  • has reports prone to errors resulting from manual work.

With this information, the software vendor will be able to tell you that the company can:

  • measure time investing less effort (because the tool is designed to limit the customer engagement to a minimum),
  • receive reports created by the built-in functionalities of the tool on an ongoing basis,
  • save themselves the mistakes of employees – because the tool is designed in such a way that it does not allow entering incorrect data.

Knowing the above, the company can describe the tool it wants to sell, referring directly to the situations the potential client is struggling with on a daily basis. As the problem is well-known to the client, it will be easy for them to understand the advantages of the tool and see positive change – saving a lot of time on unnecessary tasks.

By asking a question: “How are you currently dealing with [client’s problem]?” you will learn:

1) what difficulties the client faces on a daily basis,

2) what advantages of your solution they need the most

3) what to say to make the client easily understand the advantages of your solution.

What the client doesn’t know, and what they don’t want to hear again

Company A: has never worked with a software house before. They probably do not know why it is worth doing workshops at the beginning of the project, and the “more or less” valuation actually ranges from PLN 20,000 to PLN 900,000.

Company B: has already worked with a software house. They appreciated the flexibility of the local Project Manager, but were disappointed with the lack of transparency.

Company A must be introduced to what the creation of dedicated software involves. Company B has its own experiences in working with an IT company, so it will now more carefully choose a new supplier.

By asking a question: “Have you ever used a product/service like ours? you will learn:

1) to what extent the client needs to be explained what your service is about

2) whether the client has previous experience with a company similar to yours

Things that interest the client the most

Estimating that a business conversation lasts around 30 minutes. On the one hand, the more we ask the client about their needs, the easier it will be for us to tell what to expect from our company. On the other hand, we could talk about our company and its advantages for a few hours. Then, the time and attention of the interlocutor are not endless. What to do in order not to overlook the issues that are most important to the client?

By asking a question: “Let’s assume it is 5 minutes after the end of our conversation – the answers to what questions do you want to obtain?” you will learn:

1) what details are essential during the sales conversation

The expected effect of cooperation

Let’s assume that your company is focused on optimizing work in production plants. A potential customer has a factory and wants to reduce its costs. You agree on 200 hours of work, the amount and you start the cooperation. During its duration, it turns out that the client was not interested in just doing the audit and indicating what needs to be changed, but also in an in-depth training on how to use the machines that your company recommended to buy. “So what if you told us what machines we need if we don’t know how to operate them? After all, you are the specialists.” On one hand, you can do it, on the other hand, it is additional 40 hours of work that generate costs which you did not expect.

By asking a question: “Let’s assume we just ended our cooperation – what are the major changes that happened?” you will learn:

1) What exactly the customer expects from you

2) What the client means by “getting the problem off their shoulders”

Problem, and its consequences

Potential client A – wants to do a UX audit of their website. They noticed that a high percentage of users leave the website very quickly and, never reach the contact form. If the situation does not change, there is no chance that the company’s sales forecast for the next year will be met – and the company cannot afford another year with 2% profitability.

Potential customer B – the company wants to do a UX audit, because the president of the company has read an article saying that the upcoming year will be a data-driven and customer centric year.

By asking a question: “Problem X – let’s assume it won’t be solved for the next six months. How will this affect your business?” you will learn:

1) to what extent the client has analyzed how the problem you about to solve affects their company

2) what to refer to if the customer stops responding to emails and phone calls

The worst objection is…

… the one that has never been mentioned out loud. There are clients who do not need to be encouraged to ask questions and those who definitely should be.

By asking a question: “What are your questions? / What would you like to ask? / Is everything clear so far?” you will learn:

1) what matters should be clarified to the client.

The more accurately you understand the needs of your potential customers, the easier it will be for you to convince them to buy your product or service. Consider when was the last time you lost a client because your understanding of his situation was too shallow and what question was missing then.