How to Ask the Right Questions to Promote Sales – Tips from VGM Retail

Posted on in Growth Strategies

By: Maria Markusen, VGM Retail

Has this ever happened to you? You go to Medtrade. You find a few great new products to add to your showroom floor. All cash revenue, the products are the latest and greatest product updates. You know each product will help a customer feel better, recover faster or be a lifestyle enhancement for them.  But then, a few weeks later you look at your showroom or your inventory reports, and the products just aren’t selling. You say to yourself, “I know these are great products. They can really help my customers.  Why aren’t they selling? What was I thinking? Now I’ve got inventory overload and cash tied up in product that no one wants.” Your next move is to physically move the products closer to the store entrance or near your cash register. And, still no luck. The products just aren’t selling.

Our industry tends to be full of product geeks, focused on caretailing. We source and sell products to meet the care needs of our customers rather than just selling widgets. Our friends at Philips Respironics are no different. In fact, their tagline, “Innovation You,” is all about developing the best products to improve lives. We’ve been working with them to help educate folks to sell their new Simply Go Mini portable oxygen concentrator with the “Better Business through Better Breathing” education series. This is the third installment in a series of webinars on sales technique and merchandising.   

Don’t Talk Yourself Out of the Sale

The VGM Retail team secret shops in stores every day. The one selling faux pas we find is salespeople telling us the great benefits and features of products without matching those features and benefits to our specific needs. In addition, sales people don’t take the time to build rapport, get to know the real needs of the customer or make sure that the features and benefits we do tell the customer about actually match the needs of that customer. Mostly we are told why we must buy this item and that it won’t be covered by insurance. We dump a bunch of details into a customer’s lap that they don’t care about or don’t fit individual needs. In short, we talk ourselves out a sale. 

The Simply Go Mini is a great product, able to help people live an active, flexible life. Great features and benefits. It should be extra simple to sell, right? It is easy to sell with the right sales method. The key is using open-ended questions. An open-ended question requires a detailed answer, using the subject’s own knowledge or feelings. Open-ended questions typically begin with the following words:

  • Why?
  • How?
  • What?
  • Describe…
  • Tell me about…, or
  • What do you think about?

How to Foster a Dialogue

The questions allow a conversation and dialogue to occur, building trust with the customer, ensuring the customer buys the exact, right product for their needs. Closed-ended questions stop a conversation in its tracks, allowing the customer an excuse to stop the conversation with a yes or no answer. An added bonus, open-ended questions allow the customer to think it was their idea in the first place to buy the product. Here are some reasons to use open ended questions:

  • Show genuine interest in a customer.
  • Show empathy for a customer.
  • Build a relationship with a customer.
  • Expand conversations with customers.
  • Allow customers to talk about themselves or a loved one.
  • Allow customers to consider consequences.
  • Customer thinks the sale is their own idea.

Guide the Conversation in the Right Direction

For selling our Simply Go Mini, we recommended the following questions to get the conversation moving in the right direction, allowing us to get to know our customer and make sure that we share the exact right features and benefits to make the sale. Imagine the dialogue going something like this:

  • “What brings you into our store today?”
    • “I’m planning a trip to Ireland. The nurse at my clinic thought you might have some solutions to make my trip possible.”
  • “I’ve always wanted to travel to Ireland. Why are you travelling to Ireland?”
    • “I’m recently retired, and I’ve always wanted to see the Rock of Cashel. “
  • “Sounds like a great trip. I’m so jealous. Tell me about your health needs.”
    • “Well, I’m on oxygen. But other than that, I don’t really have any other health issues other than the occasional pain from my arthritis.”
  • “Who are you travelling with to Ireland?”
    • “I’m travelling with my daughter and granddaughter. My main goal is to make sure I can keep up with them. I don’t want my health to slow them down.”
  • “We have some products that will help you keep up with your family. Do you mind if I show you one in particular that can help you keep up with them?”

Because you are building a dialogue and relationship, you now have the perfect opportunity to present the Simply Go Mini. The three “what,” “why” and “tell me about” questions give the salesperson the chance to learn more about the customer’s needs. If we hadn’t asked those questions, we would never know the customer’s true motivation. We learn about Ireland, oxygen and the real reason she’s in the store: making her trip and experience with her family better. It allows us to solve her problem, not one we thought she may have. And, we built rapport with empathy and similar interests. This helps build trust. And, trust is the key to suggestive selling. The customer basically already sold herself on the features and benefits. And, all you have to do is to show her the perfect solution. She thinks it’s her idea in the process. 

Selling is simple. It’s about making sure you have a solution to a problem by showing genuine interest and empathy for the customer. Open-ended questions help you do that. And, most importantly, they allow you to avoid being a know-it-all and the smartest person in the room. How ironic is that?

Are you attending Heartland Conference on June 13-16? Make sure you attend one of my following sessions:

  • Balancing, reacting and taking calculated risks. How to use product inventory management to drive sales and deliver profit.
  • So, you want to be a retailer? What investment and results should you expect? Real-life sample data and case studies