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Ask questions with a purpose

How to get the most out of questions to the customer

Remember the Budweiser commercial for Bud Dry? Throughout the series of commercials was the theme, “Why ask why?” For a time after the series ran, “Why ask why?” became a common catch phrase.

Eventually, the expression died off. However, this is a good time to teach your employees why asking “why?” makes sense. The need for them to ask questions of customers is crucial, and it could be one of the most profitable lessons you teach. Asking “why?” is a good business strategy that could boost your—and their—bottom line.

What is the key to providing this valuable tool to your employees? Teach them to answer the customers’ questions with a question. The customers’ answers will provide additional insight to their wants and needs.

Here are some examples of follow-up questions and how they can provide additional and correct sales. A customer asks for a particular make and model of a product. However, it is a brand your business does not sell. The appropriate question to ask the customer is, “Why did you choose that particular model?”

After the customer answers, your salesperson has the opportunity to give this response, “You know, our buyer selects the brands we stock after thorough review of all of the brands available. He chose this brand and model because …” At that point the salesperson details the sales features of the product your business sells.

Notice that in this process, only positive statements were made about each brand. The salesperson simply explained his brand preference.

In our second example, the customer has asked for the same thing. But this business does not stock any brand or model of the product we just mentioned. The appropriate response is, “When do you need it?” If the answer is other than immediately, your salesperson can either special-order the item from your suppliers or buy it at your competition so as to have the item for your customer.

If the customer says he needs the product today, an alternative is to state that your business can have the product within a short period of time. Again, your salesperson takes the second option; and someone from your business buys the product from the competition. By doing this, you can eliminate the possibility of the customer’s shopping at your competition and emphasize that you can fulfill all of your customer’s needs.

Another scenario we should discuss is the customer who is shopping in your business and asks, “Do you have any more of these in the warehouse?” From the question, the salesperson can assume the customer may need additional quantities or may want to make sure he is buying a “one of a kind.” Making the sale could depend on your salesperson’s having the answer the customer wants to hear.

The only way to find out is to ask, “How many did you want?” Now your salesperson has additional information and will know how to direct his efforts to close the sale.

In the next example, a customer asks for a specific product. Again, the appropriate response to this statement comes in the form of a question.

Remember, by asking a question in response to your customers’ questions, your sales staff is given the opportunity to tailor the customers’ purchases to their needs. This helps avoid the return of unhappy customers who also blame the salesperson for selling them the “wrong” item.

If your business provides a service or sells products that can be used in a service, asking questions can direct customers to the correct product or additional items. Customers asking for a product should not hear, “What color?” or “What size?” Instead the salesperson should determine why they are in the market for that type of product. Now there is an opportunity to direct customers to the correct product for their needs as well as sell all the accessories that go along with it. Doing so is a service to customers as it eliminates repeat visits for all of the items they did not think of getting in their initial visit.

The question, “Why do you want to use this product?” allows your salesperson to ensure customers are buying the correct product for the situation and increases the opportunity to suggest add-on sales.

Why ask “why?” No—it is not just a cute line from a beer commercial that is passé. It is a good strategy that will increase your bottom line when you teach it to your sales staff.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179