Customers don't know how to ask good questions

Disappointed you aren't making more sales? Perhaps it is because you are talking about your products too much and listening to your customers too little.

A SNEWS® Training Center article brought to you by SNEWS® and TrainActive/Tom Richard Sales Education

Disappointed you aren't making more sales? Perhaps it is because you are talking about your products too much and listening to your customers too little.

Customers often don't know how to ask good questions, especially the ones that come into your store with a general idea of their need, but no idea how to ask the necessary questions that will point you to the exact product they are really after.

And customers don't like to feel stupid. Certainly, they don't want to feel intimidated or feel they are giving you the idea they don't know what they are talking about. So, more often than not, the opening question from a customer has something to do with a specific product feature they read about on the Internet or in a magazine, or heard about from a friend. The trouble is, many salespeople don't hear the real question and instead launch into a full and detailed explanation of the various technical features of that product, leaving the customer frequently more baffled than ever before.

Product knowledge can get in the way of a sale

Talking to a lot of customers, but not closing many sales? Perhaps it is your product knowledge that keeps getting in the way. No, we're not saying you know too much about every last feature of every last product in your store ? unless you have a habit of spewing all that information to any customer you encounter. What we are saying is that perhaps you aren't doing enough LISTENING to what your customer is truly asking or seems to want to ask you. Sure, the customer may be asking about some specific product feature, but don't take it too literally. Instead, try to clarify why they find that product feature so important, and then you can begin to focus in on what their product needs really are.

Focus on customer benefits, not product technical features

Focus your sales presentation on the customer and how the customer will benefit from a product ? comfort, improved fitness, staying dry, learning about heart rate ?. All those are benefits, not product features. If you can place the focus on benefits, when your competition has focused its presentation on product knowledge, you will win the sale every time. Customers buy emotionally and they justify their purchase logically with the product features. This means that you have to sell emotionally and validate a customer's decision with the product details later. It will never work the other way around.

Product knowledge is a good thing if you know when to use it

Don't start getting the idea that product knowledge is a bad thing. Product knowledge is necessary, but don't make the mistake of bringing it up too soon in a presentation. Your customer does not care about your amazing technical knowledge, your unbelievable product, or your incredible company when it comes to the purchasing decision. What the customer really cares about is fulfilling the need that they have.

Sure, we know the sales rep told you that the WonderWatch your customer now appears interested in will tell time in 75 different countries, nag you when it's time to workout, remain waterproof at 29 fathoms, remind you to pick up the kids from soccer practice, and has a built in LED light with 10,000 candlepower for reading in bed. And yes, we know your customer just asked you if the watch will calculate target heart rate, but don't for a minute think that your customer now has given you permission to launch with spew of facts on fathoms, time zones and candlepower. NO!

Your customer is likely initially interested in the watch because it looks good and caught his or her eye. That's an emotional connection. They asked you about target heart rate which indicates they might be an athlete. So you might ask, "Are you wanting a watch that will help monitor your heart rate while training or working out?" If the answer is yes, you have permission to talk about the features of the watch that relate to heart rates. But no more. You should also ask them what other features in a watch are important to them, or not important, and why. By asking questions like this, you are not only helping your customer find the right product for their needs, you are showing your customer you are truly interested in them.

In short, listen more, talk less, and ask good questions that will help you help your customer focus on finding the right product that provides a solution to a problem that brought them in the store in the first place.

Now, on knowing when to just shut up and close the sale? Well, that's another topic for another time.

For more information on engaging questions that you can use to get your customer talking, send a blank email to


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