Shaping the Conversation

A commonly used sales tactic is to ask questions that prompt the prospect to recognize the need for what you offer. This is sometimes called the “consultative sales approach.” To be successful with consultative sales, you should ask questions that shape the meeting as a conversation and never let it come across as a cross-examination.

Good consultative sales skills means projecting a desire to learn all you can about the prospect’s situation, so that you can help, not so you can sell (though, of course that’s your prime objective). Too many invasive questions will make the client feel like he’s being interrogated, and will immediately place him on the defensive.

  • Get the client to talk casually about themselves first. This will help break the ice and aim things in a conversational direction.
  • Before asking your intended questions, explain why you are asking, and that the information they provide will help you determine whether you can help the client meet his goals.
  • Listen to the answers given. This will guide you forward. If after each response you simply rattle off the next question, it will not work.
  • The real information you receive will help shape the next question you should ask, guiding the prospect to the solution you offer.
  • Be careful! You may sense that your questions begin to touch upon sensitive, confidential or proprietary areas. If this is the case, then back off and try another approach. Better to take another tack than to risk alienating a potential.