Giving Your Customer What He Wants

Ask questions to inform, steer and advise your customer.


Ask questions to inform, steer and advise your customer. Q. Sometimes customers don’t really know what they want. How do I help them figure that out? A. You have a truck full of tools and catalogs with thousands more SKUs. But you’ll find that the most powerful tools you have are questions. Asking good questions can uncover tons of hidden...


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Q. Sometimes customers don’t really know what they want. How do I help them figure that out?

A. You have a truck full of tools and catalogs with thousands more SKUs. But you’ll find that the most powerful tools you have are questions.

Asking good questions can uncover tons of hidden sales.

“Ninety percent of a salesman’s job is listening,” says sales coach and leadership/management training consultant Orrin Rudolph of Vital-Life Communications (www.orrinrudolph.com). “You want your customer to say to himself, ‘Hey this guy’s listening to me. He’s not just here to sell stuff. He’s actually heard me. I’m not just another number on his list.’ ”

The key to asking good questions is to avoid closed questions. Closed questions are the kind a customer can answer with a single word like “yes,” “no,” or “blue.” Open questions require a longer answer and help your customer open up.

Here are some examples of good open questions you might try:

  • What are the most common jobs you’re getting lately?
  • Is there a tool that would make those jobs easier?
  • What tools have you read about lately that sounded interesting?
  • Is there a tool you had to borrow from another tech recently?
  • What’s the most frustrating job you’ve done lately?
  • Is there a tool that would have made that job easier?
  • Is there a particular tool you’d like to see me demo?

Rudolph says your customer is thinking: “Hear me first. Solve my problem. Show me you can solve my problem.” By listening and helping your customer solve his problems you’ll figure out what he wants, earn his trust, and win his long-term business.

“You don’t want to start selling from the beginning,” says Rudolph. “Ask questions. Get them talking. Engage them in conversation. If you do this, they won’t feel sold since they’ve done all the talking. They’ve sold themselves.”

 

 

Q. Once in a while a customer asks me for an equipment recommendation. I carry thousands of SKUs. Sometimes I’m really not confident in recommending one product over another. What should I do?

 

A. In my humble opinion, you should rarely ever recommend anything.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t inform, steer or advise a customer. But, unless you’ve used the tool yourself, making a personal recommendation can be a big mistake. Even if you have used the tool, putting your name behind your recommendation can backfire -- especially on an expensive item. What happens if the product fails or doesn’t meet your customer expectations?

This isn’t such a big deal on a $20 wrench that you’re willing to take back. But it becomes a big deal on a big-ticket item like a code reader, a scanner, or a leak detector that you’re not willing to take back.

You still want your customer to feel you’re helping him and make him confident that he’s making a good decision. So, what should you do? I suggest a three-point approach:

1.) INFORM. Let’s say a customer is looking to buy an expensive piece of equipment.

First, determine if he wants to buy it today. If so, skip to Step 3. If not, help him narrow his choices. Ask him if there are several brands or models he is trying to decide between. Then pull or print literature for them -- or better yet, email him website links where he can look at specs, view videos and do some homework.

Notice you’re not giving him your opinion. You’re just giving him information.

2.) STEER. If he wants a brand you don’t carry, you may want to gently steer him to a brand you do carry. Try something like “I don’t carry that, but here are some of the solid products I do carry. Does that work for you? Or do you want me to look into that brand for you?”

If he’s sold on a brand, you may be better off giving him what he wants than trying to change his mind. If something goes wrong, he may blame you either to your face or behind your back. But most customers aren’t tied to a brand and are more than willing to look at what you carry.

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