Relationship Selling Skills – Asking Open Ended Questions

Relationship selling is all about getting to know your client so that you can find out the best way you can be of service to them. When speaking with your client you want to be asking questions to stimulate conversation. Think of yourself as reporter and ask the 5 Ws: who, what, where, when, why and how. Think of it as an interview process. This way you will uncover information that will allow you to come back on another appointment to prompt them to purchase.

Your initial questions are to establish rapport, trust and respect. If they trust you they are more likely to make a purchase. The only way to get to know your customer is to engage them in a dialog where they expand beyond a simple yes or no. You can get to know their needs and wants better if you ask the right questions. These would be open-ended questions. These are fact finding questions. Ones that can't be answered with a simple yes or no.

The age old FORM acronym is a good way to get them to open up about themselves. Ask about family, occupation, recreation so they are receptive to your message. This will help you to find some common ground outside of your sales presentation. Having a hobby in common for example goes a long way towards them being pleased to hear from you again on a sales follow up call. For example, when you do follow up you can ask about the latest hockey game and let them respond. The more they talk the higher the likelihood of a successful call.

Your next series of questions will be to discover their needs and wants. You want to discover their wants in addition to their needs. Oftentimes a customer will not reveal their real reason for wanting to buy a product or service. By asking enough questions you can dig deeper and discover their emotional reason for wanting to make a purchase. People buy on emotion and support their purchase with logic. It's their wants rather than their needs that creates an emotional attachment to a product or service.

Sales objections are a natural part of any presentation. Welcome them, don't be afraid of them. It's a good sign that they are listening to you. Be prepared for them. You want to develop questions that will help you overcome objections. These objections are the reasons why they are not yet ready to make a purchase. Expect more than one objection. Common objections like no time or no money are typically a smokescreen to their real reasons for not buying. By asking them if there are any other reasons aside from no time or money to help flush out the real objection. They may say they want to think about it or speak with their spouse. Rather than arguing with them; support them. By all means recommend they speak with their husband. But be sure to set that follow up call. Simply ask: "Shall I get back to you in a day or two? Great lets book that time now."

During this question and answer process you will want to get them to repeat so they can hear for themselves what they are thinking. This gets them to voice the decision to purchase as though it is their idea not yours. You are just supporting them through the process.

To summarize, interviewing your prospect as part of relationship selling process qualifies them as someone worthy of your time. Asking open-ended questions allows you dig deep in a short amount of time. Spending 10-15 minutes on the phone is far better than meeting with someone for coffee or lunch only to find they are wasting your time.

Irene Kirkman is teaching small business owners Relationship Selling Principles which will translate into more prospects/customers, more sales and higher customer retention through repeat business. Building relationships is paramount to lasting business success. For more information on this topic:

As much as we would like to build our business completely online; offline tools such as the telephone and good old snail mail have their place. Many I talk to are leaving money on the table. So much energy has gone into getting leads that most have no idea on what to do next. Combining online methods with a sales follow up system such as the picking up the phone or sending business thank you cards and developing Relationship Selling skills or consultative selling skills are of critical importance.

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