As a marketing professional, my attention is usually focused on generating leads. While leads are important, at the end of the day your business runs on sales, not leads.
Unfortunately, too often business owners focus their efforts on the top of the sales funnel, making sure they are generating lots of leads. Then they are unprepared when the lead converts to a sale. Without a repeatable sales process to move prospects through the funnel, too many of those leads are wasted and never convert to sales.

That was the topic of my conversation with Matt Nettleton.  His suggestion? Asking questions. That simple strategy is one most of your competitors are overlooking. Try this approach to close more sales.

What is your sales process?

When you get a chance to speak to a prospect do you launch into a sales presentation or ask questions to figure out what the customer really wants? If you are like most professional salespeople, you have a pitch ready at the first sign of interest, but according to my sales coach, Matt Nettleton, that is not the right first step.
Why? Because you don’t really know what the customer wants. You know what you want to sell, but the sales conversation really isn’t about you, it is about your customer. If you jump into your sales presentation too quickly, you may miss the opportunity to upsell or close the sale at all. Or you may spend a lot of time talking to someone who is not really ready to buy.
So the first part of your sales process should really be a series of questions which help you qualify the prospect and help them discover why you are the best fit. What do those questions look like? Here are a few of my favorites.

Why Now? – In most cases the customer spends some time thinking about making a purchase before actually engaging in a conversation with a salesperson. Understanding what made them finally decide to take action can give you clues as to what features will be important, how urgent is their need to buy.

Their answers will help you understand if this is a replacement or a first time purchase. Now you know how much explaining and educating you will need to do. There is no need to start with the basics if someone has owned this type of product before. You won’t waste a lot of time dwelling on things the customer already knows if you ask the simple questions.

What are you hoping to accomplish? – Just like the patients who read Web MD and diagnose themselves, your customer may be trying to cure the wrong problem. Maybe they think they need a social media plan, but the more questions are asked, the clearer it becomes they need a new website first. Or maybe they are looking for a new furnace when a simple repair will suffice.

Do you have a budget? – This is hard for many of us because we were taught it wasn’t polite to talk about money.  But if you are going to sell something you have to talk about money.,  Asking this questions helps you figure out how serious a prospect is and if they are prepared to invest in your product.

Tell me more – These three words can take a conversation in so many different directions. The trick is they keep your prospect talking. And the more they tell you, the better prepared you are to make the right proposal, overcome their objections, and close the sale.