In sales we know a little secret that helps us to understand our buyer’s challenges, their current position, what their goals are, and even how to close the sale. For many, the common misconception is that sales is about “pushing the sale.” Salespeople talk and talk and will “sell.” Yet, those of us who teach, practice, and are firm believers in the art and science of selling know that to do so, to sell, we need the power of asking questions.
Asking questions gives a leverage that can be used in many other business functions and even day-to-day life. The power of asking questions resides in allowing us to:
- Know and understand the other person’s situation and challenges,
- Uncover the other person’s perspective or, as we commonly say, where are they coming from,
- Help understand their interests and priorities and,
- Identify common opportunities for shared value.
Asking questions also empowers you to create a much stronger message or argument to convey your points. The answers you obtain now position you with information about the other party. Your message can now be revised to include the other person’s points of view or preferences, something in negotiation we refer to as “build them a golden parachute.” By you asking and then incorporating the other party’s ideas into a solution, helps them gain ownership in an agreement.
Last, to augment the power of questions there is one more thing. The most important answer you receive oftentimes is not the answer to your first question. It is the answer to your second: a follow up question. These are open ended questions that allow you to uncover the root of the issue, where a perspective is coming from, or why such an issue is a priority. Follow up questions give you access to the reason behind the reason and help to clarify vague or ambiguous answers. Thus, make it a point to ask open ended questions using how, why, and what such as:
- Why is that a priority for you?
- Where do you think this issue comes from?
- Why does that matter to you?
- How did you arrive to this number?
Wishing you success!
Indigo is a color that is formed by mixing other colors. I see business and its issues in the same way; businesses are formed by issues that can be seen from several perspectives and thus, it is important to recognize those components as more than just black and white.
Indigo Ink is a collection of articles on Marketing, Sales, Entrepreneurship and Exchanging Ideas from Dr. Laura Muñoz.
Muñoz is an Associate Professor of Marketing with the Satish & Yasmin Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. She received her Ph.D. in Marketing and International Business from the University of Texas – Pan American (now the University of Texas of the Rio Grande). Her main research interests are in professional selling and on those topics that emerge from the intersection between marketing and entrepreneurship. Her research has been published in leading journals such as the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, Marketing Management Journal, Marketing Education Review, and the Journal of Business & Entrepreneurship.