You understand that questions are a critical part of the sales process. Yet, questions aren't producing the results you want. That’s because the way you structure the questions you ask, and the intent behind them have a dramatic impact on the prospect.

Questions serve as a means to establish rapport with the prospect. Through questions you can put the prospect at ease, get them to open up to you, and feel comfortable with you. To make that happen though your questions must demonstrate your sincere interest in the prospect.

This is where many a sales professional gets off track. When you ask questions your questions can’t make the prospect feel like you’re taking them down a self-serving path. Let me demonstrate what I mean.

In this scenario we’ll presume you’re a life insurance agent and that you’ve gotten beyond establishing rapport, and you’ve established that the prospect has at least some interest in life insurance to get what they want. Now you might say, “Mr. Prospect you’re a man who loves his family, right”? To which Mr. Prospect has to answer “yes”. Then you might say, “Mr. Prospect as a man who loves his family you want to make sure their needs are taken care of in the horrible event you aren’t able to do so, right”? Again, Mr. Prospect almost has to respond “yes”. Then you wrap it up by saying, “Mr. Prospect because you’re a loving man and you want to make certain your family is taken care of, when do you think is the best time to start that protection”? At this point you’re expecting Mr. Prospect to say “yes”, but instead he either says “no” directly or presents a stall objection. Where or how did you go wrong?

In this example our sales professional is clearly manipulating the prospect, and both the sales professional and the prospect know it. The prospect feels angry and immediately loses all trust in the sales person. Everything you did to establish rapport and build up trust up to this point has directly gone out the window and you’ll never be able to regain what you’ve lost.

The intent of the sales person in the example was entirely self-serving, and that just doesn’t fly with a prospect. Remember the purpose of your questions is to develop trust, and you do that by demonstrating sincere interest in the prospect. And when you’re questions suddenly turn self-serving the prospect feels the whole experience has been a pre-planned manipulative sham designed to make the prospect feel guilty for saying “no” to you.

Let’s replay our experience with the life insurance agent and see how we could improve it. Now the agent might say, “Mr. Prospect as we’ve talked today it’s become absolutely clear to me that you love your family and want to make sure their needs are always taken care of, how do you see life insurance helping you to take care of your family? Now, shut up and let Mr. Prospect tell you why they want to buy life insurance. As Mr. Prospect talks he’s convincing himself of the emotional and financial value of this for him and his family, and all you have to do is help him explore all the possibilities. Then our agent might ask, “Mr. Prospect it sounds like there are a lot of benefits for you and your family, what if anything is keeping you from having that now”? Again let the prospect talk, and make sure they tell you everything that’s on their mind. The biggest reason people avoid decisions is because they’re afraid of making the wrong decision, but unless or until you have everything on the table you can’t help them to work through that. Finally the agent might say, “Mr. Prospect if I could show you a way to get what you want and a way to work around your current obstacles would you be interested in getting started”? Mr. Prospect may still be a little gun shy, but they feel like you’ve fully understood them and their needs so when you show them a solution that works for them they’re relieved and ready to go and you get the insurance sales you want.

Now the big lesson here isn’t the exact wording the big lesson is the difference in the experience for the prospect. In the first example the prospect felt pinned down, manipulated, and perhaps even violated. In the second example the prospect feels like you’re working together toward a common goal. Which agent would you rather sit down with?

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