The Situation: Your prospect is asking all the questions, keeping you talking in a reactive mode. The situation quickly becomes akin to a psychiatrist-patient relationship, says Jack Hauber, a sales coach with the Sandler Sales Institute. “The patient ends up doing all the talking and the psychiatrist is 100% in control.”
Why This is a Problem: When the prospect controls the conversation, he or she is more likely to end it with a “We want to think it over,” or “Call us next week sometime.” Similarly, without probing deeper, you may not know what he's really looking for. “You can only answer the content of the questions, not the intent,” Hauber says.
Solution: Answer a question with a question. The goal is to reveal and address the prospect's real concerns. “I try to find what's important to the client, what the questions really mean,” says Michael Lerner, a former Hauber client and president of Meridian Homes, Bethesda, Md.
Prospect: “I understand construction prices in this area average $250 to $400 a square foot. Where do you fall in this range?” Lerner: “That's a great question, and I'll answer to the best of my ability. Where do you see yourself in that range?” If the client resists, Lerner responds, “A lot of it depends on what we pick. There are refrigerators that cost $1,000, and refrigerators that cost $10,000. Tell me where you see yourself, and I'll help guide you to the best spot.”
Clients are rarely put off by Lerner's questions, he says. But if they are defensive and insist on asking all the questions, “they're probably not my client. If someone isn't going to follow our sales procedures, chances are they're not going to follow our customer service procedures.” Hauber concurs. “The ones trying to run the interview now might be the ones who would try to run the entire project.”
Other Benefits You'll build rapport. “If you're expressing interest in their answers, you look and sound different than the majority of other remodelers out there,” Hauber says.
You'll get the information you need. Prescribing a “solution” before thoroughly diagnosing the problem can lead to major headaches later. You'll assuage deep-seated concerns. If the prospect has question after question, Hauber advises saying, “I appreciate that you have a lot of questions, and that you've been thinking about this project for some time. Is it OK if we back up a couple of steps so I can ask you some questions before I start diving into solutions?” —L.T. Jack Hauber, Sandler Sales System, firstname.lastname@example.org; 301.590.8700, ext. 11.