Tell Me More

Three Simple Words Provide Depth to Sales Questions

When you ask a customer, or a client, a question, there is a great tendency to take the customer’s response at face value, making the assumption that the answer given is a full and complete answer.

Many times this simply is not so.

Customer responses are a bit like swimming suits. What they reveal is most interesting. What they keep covered, however, is vital.

Few customers are going to tell you everything about how they feel and think, or everything about their needs, wants, and desires.

It is up to the inquiring professional sales person to dig deeper into customer responses through probing and follow-up questioning.

Good sales people are like journalists chasing a good story. You do not just want the facts. You want to know the who, what, and why behind the story (in this case, the customer’s response).

Sales people need to be taught the same basic requirements as journalists:  do not come back until you have discovered the 5 Ws and 1 H. This is the who, what, where, when, why, and how that gives you the story behind the story, or the deeper answers behind the stated responses.

Or, to use another analogy from my favorite pastime (scuba diving), you cannot understand the whole structure of a coral reef by only snorkeling around the top of the reef. To really see the beauty of the reef, and its full composition, it is usually necessary to dive a bit deeper.

The same is true with customer situations. In order to ensure you fully understand the customer’s situation, and all of the factors impacting that situation, you need to dive a little deeper through your questioning tactics.

Of course, one does not want to be seen as an inquisitor, or as a busy body, when having a discussion with a customer.

That is why the direct approach to question asking often does not work very well.

Instead, try the indirect route.  My favorite way of asking a follow up question to a customer is the simple phrase, “tell me more.”

This not only signals to the customer that I am listening, but that I am interested in what they have to say.

Being interested in what the customer has to say, of course, is an extremely valuable way of building credibility, trust, and confidence with a customer or prospect. After all, it is human nature to want to be listened to.

Speaking of listening, I often tell sales people to remember that “God gave us two ears and one mouth, and we should use these in that proportion.” In other words, a good sales person will listen twice as often as he or she talks when engaged in a discussion with a customer.

Sales people have a great tendency to jump into the conversation, and often rush to present solutions and ideas before the real needs of the customer have surfaced in the conversation. This is a common mistake and often results in the customer walking away saying that they are not ready to buy yet (when what they really mean is that they haven’t found someone who has listened thoroughly enough to understand their problem or situation).

It takes a great deal of discipline to hold off from presenting solutions you believe are viable for the customer and to continue probing. But this discipline will lead to better understanding of customer needs, and higher successful closing rates.

Three simple words:  tell me more.

That is all it takes to be a good journalist, or a good sales person.

Good luck, and good selling.

KEY POINT:  being interested in what the customer has to say, by asking good follow up questions, is an extremely valuable way of building credibility, trust, and confidence with a customer or prospect.

TAKING ACTION:  what other phrases can you use to get customers to tell you more about their wants, needs, and desires?

Evaluate the probing skills of your sales staff. Where are there areas for the most improvement? Who is in the best position to coach them on probing skills?


This article is excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in Kindle and paperback formats at Amazon.

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