How can you get your buyers to tell you their biggest challenges and greatest fears? Our research tells us that buyers value a salesperson’s problem solving skills above all else, yet salespeople find it difficult to get buyers to share their challenges and fears. This article focuses on a questioning technique that will get your buyers to open-up and share information to help you determine if you can solve their problems.
Building rapport with a good opening question
Our research tells us the best way to build rapport is to ask good questions. So, start your rapport building process by asking a question that compliments the buyer and gets him/her talking openly and honestly. Here’s why it is so important to ask a strong opening question…
- It gets the buyer talking about something important to him or her
- It begins to build a good rapport between you and the buyer
- It separates you from other salespeople
If you can successfully ask a good opening question, you’ll be on the road to developing a strong relationship and possibly making a sale.
Research to identify a topic for your opening question
First, you need to research your buyer. LinkedIn, Facebook and a variety of online resources are often the best methods. If you come up a little “cold”, go to LinkedIn and find a common connection, then ask that connection about the buyer (this tactic alone is grossly under-utilized).
Identify the technical, professional, business and/or personal interests of the buyer. If you come up with a common interest between the two of you, that’s the best. Otherwise, identify a topic of interest to your buyer that meets the following criteria:
- It will enhance the buyer’s self-esteem
- It is a topic that can be discussed in depth if necessary and appropriate
- It is something in which you are interested in and/or curious about
Once you’ve identified a good topic, the next step is to formulate the question.
Forming and delivering your opening question
Let’s say in your research you learned the following things about your buyer…
- She has travelled frequently to Europe
- She dresses fashionably
- She received a degree in engineering at University of VA
- She volunteers at a shelter for the homeless and indigent
- She mentors other female engineers early in their careers
Following are some examples of good opening questions based on what you know about this buyer…
- “While preparing for this meeting I learned that you actively volunteer at the Main Street homeless shelter. I’ve volunteer at shelters as well. What caused you to get started doing that and what’s it like volunteering at that shelter?”
- “While preparing for this meeting I learned that you helped start a program for mentoring female engineers early in their careers. That’s a great contribution. What caused you to start that and how has it been working?”
Notice I did not include examples of European travel, fashion or UVA. That’s because these topics don’t lend themselves to business, may not have the self-esteem impact of altruism or mentoring, and may not generate as much discussion.
If your opening question is a good one, your buyer will have a lot to say, and that will be your starting point to acquiring the information you’ll need to create a strong relationship and make a sale.
Don’t get impatient and end rapport building prematurely. Remember, the rapport and relationship building phases are over when the buyer decides they are over. However, if you have a real talker that appears to have the energy to go on forever, a good question that helps you get to the real purpose of the meeting might be something like, “That’s really interesting. By the way, how are we doing with your time?”
In summary, do proper research about your buyer, formulate and ask a good opening question that appeals to the interests and emotions of your buyer, and begin building a relationship that enables you to learn as much as you need to learn to determine if this is a good customer for you.