Sales Tip from Lance’s Training War Chest - Talk Like Your Prospect
Updated: May 30
last post, I wrote of using your questions not only to get your prospect’s attention but to also keep their interest by selling to the gap. I also wrote that your meeting is shaped by the questions that you ask, the order you ask them and how you ask them. As I’ve said before, sales is an away game - it takes place in your prospect’s mind. So, you control the pace of the sale by getting in your prospect’s mind, focusing their attention on the challenges they face, and leading them to a place they want to be. A vital piece of this process is talking like your prospect to increase rapport.
Insights into Your Prospect’s Internal Conversation Consider this. Let’s go back to when we were kids. I don’t know about your parents, but I’m guessing they are going to be a lot like the parents of most of the people that I’ve talked to. That is, our parents used nicknames or familiar names when addressing us most of the time. When they broke out the formal form of your name, you knew they meant business. And when they added your middle name to the mix, you knew you were in trouble! For instance:
“Jimmy, could you take out the trash?”
Half an hour goes by and Jimmy hasn’t taken out the trash.
“Jim, please take out the trash.”
Another 30 minutes goes by and Jimmy still hasn’t taken out the trash.
“James. Take out the trash!”
And another 30 minutes goes by and the trash is still in the house.
“James Tiberius Kirk! Did you take out the trash like I told you to do?” You see the progression?
The Tyranny of the 'Why' Question These discussions typically advanced to the next stage where our parents would ask the dreaded ‘why’ question:
“Did you take out the trash like I told you?”
“Why not?” Or
“Did you tear the bumper off the car last night?”
“Why did you do that?” Or
“Did you eat the last of the roast beef without telling anybody?”
“Why did you do that?” These interrogations never made us feel good. Truth be told, they aren’t meant to make us feel good. And we are putting our prospect in that same position every time we use ‘why’ questions in our process. For instance:
“We decided to go with Fidelity’s financial services for our employees.”
“I can appreciate that. Your employees are important. Why did you choose Fidelity?” Or
“Our previous car was a Ford Taurus.”
“Ford is a good car manufacturer. Why did you choose the Taurus?” Every time we break out the ‘why’ questions, we challenge our prospect's decision-making process and put him or her on the defensive, pulling up those feelings from the good old days when our parents were questioning our judgment. Now, don’t get me wrong. 'Why' questions are important. They aren’t good or bad. They have a use. But we slow down the sales process when we use them as a crutch instead of exercising a little brain power and using a different set of questions to uncover relevant information.
The Alternative - Ask Questions Like Their Friends An alternative to relying on the ‘why’ question also comes from our past. While our parents, our teachers, and any figure of authority were questioning our nascent decision-making process with ‘why’ questions, our friends were taking a different approach. And they were getting better results!
“Wow! Did you really pull Sarah Jane’s hair?”
“How come?” Or
“Hey, did you really tell Biff the Bully you weren’t going to do his homework anymore?”
“Wow! How come?” Our pals were less judgmental. So, we typically viewed their questions as a statement of admiration instead of a challenge of our reasoning process. As a result, the mental baggage that comes with asking a ‘why’ question is absent when you simply ask, “how come?” I discovered this small quirk early in my sales career and have used this phraseology since. It’s part of a larger framework that I highlight in all my consultations and programs. It follows this simple philosophy: Salespeople who can talk like regular folks and not like they just got out of an MBA program tend to do well. My advice to you is to talk like your prospect. Use their language and honestly see the world from their perspective. That will help you immensely with your questioning process when you dive into your evaluation and diagnosis.