It's vital to understand what your clients need


It has been shown that 75 percent of the success of your sale depends on how well you execute the approach and qualification steps.

Therefore, I'd like to offer a deeper understanding of these pivotal components of the sales process.

The approach step focuses on establishing rapport and selling yourself to the prospect.

The first three to five minutes of the meeting sets the tone and creates a lasting impression for the entire business relationship. Therefore, you must make a positive impression with each prospect you meet.

Start with greeting your prospect and calling them by name, "Good morning, Mr. Smith." Give your own name and identify your company, "I'm Bob Jones of the Jones Group." Then ask an open-ended, friendly question like, "How is you day going so far?"

Remember to offer a warm, firm handshake as well as your business card early in your introduction. This will convey both credibility and professionalism.

When you move from the approach step to the qualification step, the following statement is extremely helpful in making a smooth transition:


  • "(Prospect name), I would like to tell you about our (name of product or service).

    However, in order for me to do the best job I possibly can for you, I need to ask you a couple of questions.

    Is that all right?"

This statement is so important that you should commit it to memory.

It's essential to have an effective segue between approach and qualification and this statement opens the door for you to move on to the important information gathering you'll need to do in the qualification step.

The more your prospects talk, the more they'll like you.

Therefore, you'll want to get your prospects talking by asking questions. Their answers will allow you to gear the rest of your presentation toward meeting their needs. However, you'll only get this information by asking the right questions.

Peak performers always prepare a list of questions before they make any presentation to a prospect.

Good questioning skills are particularly critical here because in gathering this information you are laying the groundwork for a smooth close to your sale.

During this stage you are offering no solutions, you are simply encouraging the prospect to open up. Listen intently and take notes. You will use this valuable information to offer solutions and fill his or her needs.

There are three types of questions to use in this process:

 Open-ended questions:
Open-ended, fact-finding questions are designed to uncover facts. For example: "What kind of product delivery system do you use?"

Open-ended/feeling finding questions, on the other hand, are designed to uncover opinions and/or attitudes such as, "How is your present system of handling work overloads working for you?"

You should begin each of your questions with who, what, when, where, why and how.

For example: "How do you feel about?", "What do you think of...?" and "Why is it being done like that?"


 Reflective questions are used to encourage the prospect to talk about or reflect back on a key word he or she has said.

Repeating a key word shows your prospects that you are paying attention to their concerns and they will feel encouraged to continue. If your prospect says, "I'm concerned about your product's reliability," you could respond using the key word as a question: "Reliability?"

This question allows the prospect to then elaborate on his or her specific concern.


 Directive questions are used when you want to guide the prospect to a response you want -- a yes or no answer -- to move both parties to a quick understanding.

For example: "Is a money-back guarantee on our product important to you?"

The following two questions are extremely valuable as they can help zero in on what problems or needs exist.


  • 1. "May I ask what you like the most about ...?"

    2. "Would it be fair to ask what you liked least about ...?"

Once you understand what kind of questions to ask your prospect, there are three specific questions you need answered before a sale can take place.

 What is the need?
Does the prospect genuinely need your product or service?

 How will the product or service be used?
What existing problems or needs will your product or service alleviate? What aspects of your product or service would be most important to this particular prospect?

 Who is in authority?
Does the person to whom you are speaking have the authority to purchase? Is this the decision-maker?

If you make a presentation to someone who is not the decision-maker, two things can happen. You will either have to make the presentation all over again to the decision-maker or you will have to hope that the person to whom you made your presentation will relay your information to the appropriate person.

If you are not talking with the decision-maker, I guarantee that the sale will be "lost in the translation." The employee who relays the information will not have your high degree of product knowledge, sales skill or sincere conviction. In other words, you will have wasted your time ... and lost your sale.



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.