Pop the Question

What’s wrong with this picture? You walk into a boutique shop with some idea of what you’re looking for but you’re not sure exactly what. The sales assistant sizes you up and begins showing you a lot of things you’re not interested in or don’t like. The more you politely say “no thanks,” the more insistent he or she becomes. Chances are you will walk out not having purchased anything.

The assistant missed a chance to make a sale because he or she did not engage the customer in questioning. Questioning is a simple but effective means of finding out and confirming what the customer wants or needs. For example, the assistant could have said, “I see you’re wearing something very contemporary, do you prefer that style?” or “Do you have a particular color in mind?” In this way you both engage with customer and make him or her feel that you have their best interest in mind.

When helping clients select products, questioning can take many different forms. You can ask the client who will be using the product, how it will be used, where it will be used, what it will be used with, if they have ever owned a similar product and, if so, what did they like or not like about it. The important thing is to continue probing to get as much detailed information as you can.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, confirm with the client by asking more questions, such as, “This is a nice shade of blue, don’t you think?” or “I believe this is the type of sofa you’re looking for, isn’t it?” Saying “yes” also affirms the decision in the client’s mind.

You’re not trying to lead the client to accepting your decision. On the contrary, you are taking them through a process to help them discover what they may not at first be able to articulate, what they truly want or need, as opposed to what they may think they want. When you do that, you can then be confident in recommending the product they will want to purchase.

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