Do you know the feeling when you try to improvise a great question during a client meeting? You focus more on improvising and formulating the questions than on listening to what the customer has to say. Your client will recognize this very quickly and his first impression will be greatly affected.
Preparation is the key to overcoming this challenge. Great questions are difficult to formulate and are the most important part of a salesperson's professional toolkit. In this article I would like to share 10 questions to build up trust & respect with your client.
"The questions you ask are more important than the things you could ever say."
(Source: Author of Question Based Selling, Thomas Freese)
Trust over competence
In many sales situations we have to create relationship with people we’ve never met before.
What makes a great relationship? Humor, physical attraction, and open communication?
According to Amy Cuddy a Harvard Business School Professor people answer two questions when they first meet you. (Source: Amy Cuddy Harvard Business School Professor)
- Can I trust this person? (Warmth)
- Can I respect this person? (Competence)
Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both. Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business. But in fact, warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you.
"If people like you, they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they will do business with you.”
(Source: Zig Ziglar)
So how do we ensure our conversation partner perceives our competence and positive intention to quickly build that trust? How do we want to represent ourselves? What competence do we want the customer to recognize?
Typically, we demonstrate our competencies by talking about our accomplishments, but does that always lead to success? Rather than being talked at, customers are looking for someone who understands what their needs are and what they want to accomplish, someone who not just hears them but focuses on listening to understand.
The goal should be to quickly demonstrate our competence, customer orientation, relevance and more importantly demonstrate we are trustworthy. Nobody wants to do business with someone they don’t trust or doesn’t have the competency they expect.
"82% of B2B decision-makers think commercial/industrial salespersons are unprepared."
(Source: Biznology study)
Would you prefer to do business with someone who improvises the meeting or someone who is well prepared? The answer seems obvious, prospects want to see that sellers are prepared.
Preparation means not only knowing about the business of the customer and knowing whom you are talking to. It also means, preparing great questions to lead the conversation and demonstrate your competence, the way how you ask questions and how you deal with the answers.
What questions demonstrate your customer orientation, your interest in understanding the customer, your competence?
This is not an easy task. Here are some examples.
10 questions which help you to build up trust and respect with your client
Give & Take Question
- In order to prepare best for you, what are your expectations for the meeting tomorrow?
With this question you can prepare well for the conversation and show that you have a positive intention and are interested in the client's expectations. This is the basis for exceeding expectations and thus building trust and respect.
Result oriented questions
- What are your main business objectives? What do you consider the biggest obstacle to achieving your goals?
- What would make this project a success?
- When do you want to see the results?
- How can we measure results?
SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, result oriented, time bounded)
These questions demonstrate you want to add value and aim for measurable (SMART) results as well as you take ownership for success. That leads to trust and respect.
- What would you do if you had unlimited resources?
- What would you do if you had unlimited budget?
- What would you do if you had unlimited time?
- Let's take a look into the future. What would your ideal situation look like?
- How satisfied are you with the current solution approach from 1 to 10?
What does a 10 look like?
These questions encourage the customer to think differently and usually lead to a more insightful and impactful conversation.
Last but not least: Restate in your own words what you have understood to check that you have understood correctly and to show that you have listened carefully.
This gives the client a sense of security and control, so that they do not see any risk in working with you.
Become a trusted advisor by changing the way you think and act.
"Buyers won’t engage with sales reps who pitch product, but they will give access to trusted advisors"
(Source: Trish Bertuzzi)
In order to become your customers' strategic partner, you need to prepare properly. To do this, you can use these and even more questions that we have compiled for you to download. Just click here and download our list of 35 questions you should ask yourself and your clients.
Author: Andre Kleine, Founder RUN AT BEST