Have you heard the one about two psychiatrists? They pass on the street, and one nods to the other and says, “Good evening, Doctor.” A block later the other one thinks to himself, “I wonder what he meant by that?”
For most of us, “good evening” doesn’t imply anything more than “good evening.”
But in the sales process, a comment that seems like a brick wall can be a doorway to opportunity. To recognize those possibilities, we just need a positive attitude and curious mind.
Take this example:
At a chamber of commerce meeting you strike up a conversation with the owner of a small a manufacturing company and he tells you, “We’ve been with the same agent for the last ten years, since we started the company.”
On the surface this could seem like a dead end opportunity, but simply asking if he’s ever compared coverage and pricing with other agents can put the situation in a whole new light. “Not really,” he says, “I’ve just assumed that agents pretty much offer the same programs and rates.”
“That’s often the case,” you explain, but you have a program for manufacturers that’s helped similar operations lower their premiums substantially without sacrificing coverage. “Really?” he says. “I’d like to learn more about that.”
A long-term engagement with one agent can indicate a loyal and enduring business relationship, but it can also mean the business owner just hasn’t considered other options.
Probing questions can, and often do, turn dead-ends into smooth roads ahead. They get you behind the curtain to clarify and uncover details about the particular situation. And often those details make for a different kind of story,
Especially useful are ‘open ended’ questions – beginning with words like “what,” “how,” “why” – that require a more detailed answer than a simple yes or no query.
When you use them to learn about people’s buying attitudes and what’s worked or hasn’t worked for them in the past, you gain situational fluency to move in the right direction.
Here are some negative-sounding remarks from sales prospects that might turn out to be welcoming doors when the right questions are used to open them. Can you come up with some good questions to get beyond the outward roadblocks?
I’m comfortable with the agent we have now, and not inclined to be making any changes…
We’ve compared in the past but we kind of like our agent now…
I’d say we have a good relationship with the agent…
I’m too busy now to schedule a meeting about insurance. I own two other businesses and I’m opening a third…