The Key to Selling and Negotiation is Asking the Right Questions
If you’re new to the sales game, you might be mistaken for thinking it’s the smooth talker who clinches the deals but according to the experts it’s the careful listener and astute interviewer who scores the most runs.
When it comes to the art of selling and negotiating, the most important tools are preparation; asking the right questions in the right sequence; and learning to read verbal and non-verbal cues.
Before any business meeting, especially with a new client, it’s a good idea to research the individual and their company. Reading their website and their LinkedIn profile are obvious starting points, but also talking to other colleagues who know the client can be invaluable for understanding their personality style. Take a notebook with at least six questions. According to Partner at Talkforce, Julie Holman: “I never ask a question just for the sake of it. It’s always strategic.”
Julie begins a new business meeting with ‘open’ questions to build rapport. These are explorative and usually start with what or how? They can also be along the lines of: ‘describe your typical working day?’ or ‘tell me about your business,’ or ‘what are the key outcomes you’re looking for?’
Adapting your style of questioning will depend on the client’s personality. If he or she is chatty and extroverted the challenge may be to stay on track by introducing structure. Conversely, if the client is introverted and task-oriented, they’ll appreciate a well-structured meeting, that stays on point, with the objectives spelled out up front.
Not everyone is comfortable being quizzed especially if they’re nervous about revealing sensitive corporate information. Help the client understand why you’re asking for specific details, and assure them all their data will remain confidential.
For example you might say: “In order to save time and make sure we are on the same page, I’d like to ask you about the budget you’ve set aside for this project.”
If the person still avoids answering you could say: “I’m interested to know why you are hesitant about giving that information.”
Sometimes remaining silent for a few beats, gives the client permission to reveal more.
Not all meetings run smoothly. The most common cause of misunderstanding is due to ‘fuzzy language,’ or words that can be misinterpreted. If you say: ‘we’ll get back to you ASAP.’ The client might wonder if ASAP means today, tomorrow, next week or maybe never. And who and what exactly will you get back? When the client misunderstands you, then say: “Iam sorry I mustn’t have explained that clearly.”
Toward the end of the meeting, start to narrow down the specifics with more closed questions, such as:
Have I answered all of your questions?
Does our recommendation suit your needs or achieve your outcomes?
Are you in a position to proceed right now?
Finally, when selling and negotiating, it’s essential to put your ego aside, have a genuine curiosity and clarify all the details.
Of course, these tips are vital for building any strong relationship – personal and professional.
Theresa Miller is the director of millerink media and associate at talkforce, specialising in media training, business writing, presentation skills and content creation.