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The Next-Best Question

Strategies for Selling
By Brad Huisken
This story appears in the January 2009 issue of JCK magazine
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In sales, there is always a next-best question. Follow the railroad track of next-best questions. Your ability to communicate through asking questions will have a direct relationship on your success in sales.

Customers will tell you everything you need to know to make the sale, add on to the sale, and develop a relationship based on the emotional information they want to share—if you ask the right questions.

The following are what I call The Seven Key Questions. I believe these are so important that they should be asked in 99.99 percent of all sales presentations with new customers. Every question has more than one reason for asking it. See how many reasons you can come up with for asking each of them. Additionally, the questions will allow you to sell based on why the customer wants to buy. They help you create a relationship and focus on the emotion behind the purchase.

Who recommended our store? This question increases trust in buying from you and adds to the perception that you get a lot of referrals or recommendations. I would definitely want to thank the person giving me recommendations. This is the only time I advise not changing the word recommended to the word referred or asking, Where did you hear about us? These mean something completely different from recommended.

Who are you shopping for? If the customer isn’t shopping for herself, this question will give you the gender of the gift recipient and the relationship between the recipient and the customer.

What have you seen before that he/she/you would love to have? This will tell you what you’re up against from a competitive perspective.

What brings you in today? This is the transition question from nonbusiness conversation to business conversation.

What is the special occasion? This question will give you the emotional reason behind the gift, which allows you to share in the excitement of a jewelry purchase.

What is important to him/her/you in selecting a _____? This is the most important question in sales. The answer lets the salesperson sell based on the reason the customer wants to buy as opposed to the reason the salesperson wants to sell.

When is the special occasion? This question allows the salesperson to add a sense of urgency to the purchase.

In most selling situations one of these will be your next-best question in determining your customers’ wants, needs, and desires. That, in turn, allows you to sell based on telling your stories and letting the customer tell his. The customer wants to share those special stories with someone—let that someone be you.

When a customer walks into a jewelry store, she isn’t looking for jewelry. She’s looking for a place and a person from whom to buy the jewelry.

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