You can’t do a mind meld, so ask some discovery questions instead

You have a product. It’s fantastic! It’s innovative! Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious even!


Yet despite a standard sales spiel explaining in great detail how marvellous your product is and always sounding quite precocious, you never seem to land a sale. That’s even when you get through the whole thing without your potential customer falling asleep once. And that’s assuming they don’t tell you to get off their property first.


The problem is that you need to tailor your sales spiel to each individual customer.


That means identifying the right product for them, then presenting the value proposition and benefits for them of that product.


Well, Old Taskmaster says it’s a good thing that you, my friend, have long ago mastered the art of the Vulcan mind meld!


What’s that? You haven’t? You’re not a psychic either? Kids these days! Well then, Sonny Jim Crockett, you better start asking some discovery questions before you get to your big sales spiel!


It’s important to remember there are two types of discovery questions you can ask your potential customers. The first is a ‘closed-ended question’ which can be answered with either a choice between a limited number of options, including a simple ‘yes or no’ answer.


“Do you want to buy this particular model of widget?” is an example of a closed-ended question. “Do you prefer it in black or purple?” is another example.


All other questions – those that can’t be dealt with in just a couple of words – are called open-ended questions. “What industry are you in?”, “What level of growth are you expecting in your industry over the next 12 months?” or “What is your favourite colour?” are all examples of open-ended questions.


Generally speaking, if it begins with something like “Can you tell me about…”, it’s probably an open question.


Like Inspector Clouseau or Hercule Poirot, your job is to start your search for the right sales spiel by asking a series of the right open questions. Treat this part of the process a bit like a television interview.


Get your interviewee talking about themselves, their wants and their desires in order to offer up some clues of what they’re after.


Based on their answers, work out a list of possible suspects (by which I mean products). Then narrow down the possibilities with a couple of closed questions until you have the right product for them.


Then, like the final scene of an Agatha Christie novel, you hit them with a personalised spiel that gets them to confess – that they really want your product. Except unlike a whodunit novel, instead of uncovering the means, motive and opportunity, you instead find the product, benefits and value proposition for them. Evidence you uncovered with your discovery questions.


Of course, it’s all well and good to know the theory. What you really need to do is to become a great interviewer. That only comes with practice.


So Old Taskmaster says it’s time to practice your interviewing technique. Bug your kids with discovery questions! Ask your spouse or partner (they might be flattered you’re finally paying them some attention – so don’t let them know you’re just practising your sales technique)! Interview your parents and your friends! Become a master of the craft!


Then go out there and interview those customers to land yourself a sale!


Get it done – today!


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