Do you get nervous or self-conscious when you are meeting with a potential client for the first time?  Do you worry that you won’t be able to “close the deal?”

You know that selling involves building a relationship.  However, just because you become friends with someone doesn’t mean that they will buy what you are selling.  Most new entrepreneurs have never really taken any sales training.  You have probably just had a wonderful idea and you think that everyone you talk to will think it’s wonderful, too.  You have talked to people and built relationships your whole life.  However, there is a difference between “winging” it and learning how to do a structured sales conversation.

One of the most important conversational skills you must learn is to ask open-ended questions rather than closed questions.  Closed questions basically elicit a “yes” or “no” response and are not very helpful as you try to establish rapport or gather information.

The ability to ask an open question can be important in many vocations, including sales, counseling, education, mediation, or journalism.  Open-ended questions begin with words like: who; what; why; when; where; or how.  They can also begin with phrases like, “tell me about _______,” or “what do you think about ________?”

When you begin the conversation with a new client, you will want to gather information.  I found some great examples of open-ended questions from Sam Parker of Give More Media, Inc.  They include:
  • What prompted you to look into this?
  • What are your expectations for this product/service?
  • What are your requirements for this product/service?
  • What process did you go through to determine your needs?
  • How do you see this happening?
  • What would you like to see accomplished?
  • With whom have you had success in the past?
  • With whom have you had difficulties in the past?
  • Can you help me understand that a little better?
  • What does that mean?
  • What other items should we discuss?
After you’ve elicited all the information you think you will need, you will want to use other open-ended questions to qualify your prospect.  It’s better to find out how soon this person will be in the market for what you are trying to sell.  Some qualifying questions include:
  • What do you see as the next action step?
  • What is your timeline for purchasing this type of service?
  • What budget has been established for this?
  • What are your thoughts?
  • Who else is involved in this decision?
  • What concerns do you have?
As you work with your prospect, you will want to establish rapport and build trust with them.  Some examples to use in establishing that rapport and trust include:
  • How did you get involved in _____?
  • What kind of challenges are you facing?
  • What is the most important priority to you with this?  Why?
  • What other issues are important to you?
  • What would you like to see improved?
Think about your potential clients and the services or products you are trying to sell.  Rewrite these questions so they will work for you.  Then, get a co-worker or your spouse or even your virtual assistant and role-play with them so that these questions begin to comfortable roll off of your tongue.


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© 2013 Melinda Coker

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