Why? You might ask ?
When it comes to influencing customers without pitching, just think – how many times have you met someone at a networking or business event and been forced to listen to them drone on about how important they are?
At what point did you mentally switch off and start looking for the coffee pot, the toilet or just a friendly face to rescue you?
The more someone tells you how great they are, the less likely you are to buy, don’t you think? If only they found the time to ask a question and listen to you….
What makes someone buy from me?
At the heart of this are the two reasons anybody will make a buying decision.
The first reason is trust. It’s very interesting that, even in this age of high-tech solutions and whizzy sales systems, people still buy from others that they trust. Just ask a group of people you know what they value most in a sales person and that’s likely to be the answer.
Secondly, someone only buys if they have a need. Yes, there is such a thing as an impulse buy, and a smart sales person might help a buyer articulate a need they hadn’t previously identified. But fundamentally nobody buys without a reason.
The power of questions in influencing customers
The only way to establish a potential buyer’s need and to establish trust is to have a conversation. If you pitch at this early stage there’s a slim chance you get lucky and what you’re selling is exactly what they want.
All the same, you’d have to be the first person they’ve met offering that solution, you haven’t yet established trust, and you have no idea how best to package your solution for their needs. Unlikely eh?
What if you started with some big picture questions like
“What are your big challenges at the moment?”
“What do you want to achieve in 2023?”
Now it’s getting interesting.
The power of listening in successful selling
There is this very old adage in sales: A successful sales person has two ears and one mouth – and uses them in that proportion. It doesn’t matter how old it is or whether you’ve heard it before, it’s a function of human nature that holds true today, especially when influencing customers.
So try to avoid pitching at this stage too!
Imagine if your next type of question just follows up on the answers you’re given. It shows you’re listening – a truly prized skill – and it helps you find out more:
“What have you tried before?”
“What specific problem are you trying to fix?”
“Who do you see doing this well or setting an industry benchmark?”
Influencing customers by using questions to understand buyer motivations
Even now, try to hold back from pitching!
Wouldn’t it be interesting to understand why your connection/ buyer wants to make this change. What’s the underlying motivation?
You can establish this with questions like:
“What impact is this problem having on your customers?”
“What sort of solution is the board/your boss asking for?”
“How is this affecting your internal team and office morale?”
All these questions help you to understand the Why behind the customer’s request for help.
Collaborating with customers on solutions
This question-led approach has helped you establish a trusting relationship with your buyer, who’s shared with you some valuable feedback.
From here you can start to think about what a sales solution might look like:
“What if you could create a solution that looked like x or y?”
“Having described your problem what do you think an ideal solution might look like?”
“If budget was not a consideration how would you take this forward?”
Now you’ve got your potential customer explaining to you what sort of product or service they think would best suit their needs.
By this point you’ve identified in some detail what problem they are trying to fix and, done well, you’ve established a relationship of trust.
Finally you’re in a position to expand more about what you do, how your service works, and to demonstrate case studies from clients you’ve worked with previously. All of this can now be tailored perfectly to the motivations your buyer has explained to you.
When it comes to influencing customers there’s no hard sell, no pushy pitch, just a collaborative and supportive way of figuring out whether you can help someone.