Our prospects are smart. They are also (for now) human so sometimes they forget to check a box in their selection process or they fall victim to a heuristic. This is a great opportunity for us to break rapport or elevate ourselves closer to “trusted adviser” status by asking a presumptive question.
Bad presumptive questions tend to start with “you,” as a pejorative, and are designed to get the salesperson’s emotional needs met (to paraphrase a Sandler Rule, don’t do that). They might sound like, “you must have talked to your current supplier about this” or “did you take into consideration <feature of salesperson’s product that prospect doesn’t care about> which our competitor doesn’t have?”
Good presumptive questions give our prospect a stroke because they subtly imply “you’re a thorough person who checks all the right boxes” or they take the pressure off us and our prospect by presuming something happened, which we are discussing like two sport coaches reviewing game film.
The former type of good presumptive question typically starts with “so when” like “so when you talked the delivery issues over with your current vendor, what did they say?” A gentle, nurturing tone is key to getting a response from a prospect. A critical tone is likely to break rapport.
The latter time of good presumptive question typically starts with “what happened” like “what happened when you talked the delivery issues over with your current vendor?”
In either case we must carefully monitor our prospect’s body language and tonality both when we ask a presumptive question and when they respond.
If our prospect didn’t take the action presumed in our question, they might start to feel uncomfortable, especially with a detail-oriented prospect, and they might respond with something like, “um, I didn’t do that.” In that case it’s on us to make them feel okay again by saying something like, “I hear that a lot. What do you think they would have said if you had had that conversation?” By making our prospect feel okay then asking them to imagine the conversation with their current vendor (whom they’ve been complaining about, which is why we’re visiting with them), we can create separation between our prospect and their current vendor, which enhances our chances of earning their business.
Our prospect may also choose to lie (shocking) to use because we haven’t built enough rapport for them to trust us with the truth, which might sound like, “oh they said…” Having been given a bit of information we can start exploring their response to discover if there’s truth in it or if they are blowing smoke at us. Either way further questioning is necessary.
When we keep our focus on gathering information from our prospect and avoid seeking to get our emotional needs met, we differentiate on how we sell instead of what we sell, which tends to turn more prospects into clients.
Until next time… go sell something.