(This article originally appeared on Deb Calvert’s blog)
These four little words are magic to my ears in any conversation. When someone replies to a question I’ve asked by saying “That’s a good question…” I know I’ve just added something of value, something they didn’t have before that moment.
Usually, when someone pauses and says “That’s a good question,” what they’ve gained is permission to pause. The question that prompted this reply is an invitation to think about something. It’s an opening to reflect on something that hasn’t been processed fully or given the time and thought it deserves. When people say “That’s a good question,” what they really mean is “What you asked has caused me to pause and think. Thank you for that.”
Sellers who cause their buyers to pause and think are similarly appreciated. Buyers are busy people. When they meet with sellers, they expect to be deluged with details, inundated with ideas and fire-hosed with features. It’s refreshing for them when, instead, sellers ask liberating questions.
What’s a liberating question? It’s one that frees up thinking time and space. It’s a question asked with the intent to probe. It’s a courtesy extended, an acknowledgement that there is something more than the usual assumptions other sellers make.
To give a buyer the time and space needed for pondering a good, liberating question, a seller should:
- Pose open-ended instead of closed-ended questions.
- Be purposeful in the construction of questions so you are helpful in surfacing important information and ideas.
- Stop talking after asking a purposeful, well-constructed question. Give the buyer time to think and respond instead of filling in the silence.
- Avoid rushing to close. Questions that compel a buyer to think and discover new possibilities reveal valuable information for the seller, too. But that information may not be all there is to the story. Don’t pounce too quickly. Instead, consider asking one or two follow-up questions to explore the potential opportunity. This will give you more to work with and will also ensure you don’t inadvertently shut down the buyer.
- Be curious. Topics that are ripe for discussion are usually revealed through clues and cues offered by the buyer. A curious and observant seller will notice these signals and then ask a question to probe an area that’s significant to the buyer.
In selling, there are many reasons to ask questions. Most of them relate to the improved effectiveness of closing the sale. After all, that is the natural conclusion of everything else a quality question can do – opening a relationship, assessing the needs of the buyer, understanding priorities and values in negotiating, and more.
But this one reason can and should stand alone. Asking a make-you-think, well-constructed, liberating question creates value all by itself. “That’s a good question” is a validation of the question itself and of the seller who asks it. There is no easier and more affordable way to create genuine, personalized value for each and every buyer.
Want more information about how you can become the ONE seller buyers WANT to talk to? Read the book recommended by international sales experts, DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connectedby Deb Calvert. You can also subscribe here to receive both the Advance the Sale blog and the CONNECT! Online Radio Show for Selling Professionals.