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No Doubt you’ve had your share of first meetings with prospects who seemed unwilling to engage in a good give and take with you. It’s happened to us all. That’s because, prospects generally follow a rule that helps them maintain control during a sales call.In Three Steps to Sales Success, Part I, we covered the need to pause when you ask questions of prospects, and to ask open ended questions to learn their pain indicators and pain(s). Now, let’s take a look at questions that best prompt a prospect to open up to you.

The rule is this: Get solutions to problems from salespeople without giving lots of information away. This approach helps them to stay in control of the sales call.

What’s more, prospects are trained to talk with salespeople the way parents talk to children. In this case, they play the role of an adult and talk to you as a child. Good for them, they think. And bad for you.

The way around this is to shift the conversation into an adult-to-adult mode. This puts you on equal footing with a prospect. As one peer talking with another peer.

But just how do you do this and get a good conversation going? Here’s a good question to ask on a first sales call: Could you tell me about your business?  Like most people, prospects love to talk about themselves and what they do.

Then, try these follow-ons: How long have you been with the company? Or if you’re talking with a business owner, try this: “How long have you owned the company. And this: What do you like about it now? 

You’ll notice that these questions are all open ended. Asking them prompts a prospect to respond with answers you can ask further questions about. This will show you as a consultant and problem solver not as a pushy salesperson.

From here, you can then move into more important areas like a prospect’s view of his or her career horizon with questions like these: What’s next for you? Where do you go from here? What’s your exit strategy?

As you raise these questions and pause to absorb the answers, remember that the higher up a prospect stands on the management ladder, the larger will be his or her horizon. And he or she will have more and deeper matters to talk about.

In any event, you’ll be asking questions that most salespeople never even close to asking. Best of all, you’ll be controlling the sales call, not your prospect.

Free eBook: LinkedIn the Sandler WayThree Biggest Sales Mistakes You Should Never Make
How you interact with your prospects the first time you meet them—before you ever make a presentation—can have a greater impact on your likelihood of closing a sale than the actual aspects of the product or service you have to offer.

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