I believe that selling is 95% asking questions, listening and finding out the customer’s needs and wants – not what you think they are – or by just talking product knowledge and dumping information.
I have preached that you can be a fabulous salesperson if you truly understand the power of questioning techniques and don’t worry so much about product knowledge. Just focus on asking many questions, which will allow the customer to talk and tell you what they want. I have been training this concept to salespeople for more than 31 years. However, we have all heard there is an exception to every rule, and guess what, I found the exception.
What I mean by this exception to the rule is by first talking about the majority of most sales that we encounter, whether it is direct selling or retail.
The great salesperson is there to ask a number of questions about what the customer is looking for, what their present experience with the product or service might be and what features or benefits they would desire or not want at all, etc.
The great salesperson will find out so much about the customer that he or she can then make recommendations on what is best suited for them or why they should buy or in many cases, why they should not buy, if he or she is an honest salesperson.
One of my best buddies, Shelly, asked me to go for coffee with him. As we were driving home, he asked if I minded if we made a quick stop at the woodworking store that caters to hobbyists that love to make things out of wood. I said, “Sure, no problem.” In fact, I have never been in a store that caters to this type of hobby and I thought it would be interesting to walk around a little while my friend was picking up the items that he needed for his workshop at home.
I do not recall being in a business where I do not know a single product, what it is used for, why you would use it, or anything even associated with this hobby or profession.
I could not believe this has happened to me before. Usually, I know a little about most subjects, but this one was a complete blank to me. The more aisles I walked down, the dumber I became and I still had a few aisles to go.
I noticed a help wanted sign on the outside of the store Woodcrafters. I could probably work at any retailer, but not this one. I pictured myself on the first day at work. A customer comes in and asks if we have this product or that, or if I know how to build this by using this certain tool, and I am drawing a blank. There was not one thing I could help anybody do or fix. I could not answer any question unless they were asking me what time it was.
It really hit me that in this case, product knowledge was more important than selling skills. I do not recall any other situation where it was as blatant as this one. It seemed that you could be a lousy salesperson and just dump product knowledge all day as long as you knew how this stuff worked and why it worked.
Don’t get me wrong, a salesperson with great questioning techniques could still do a far better job, but in this case, the product knowledge came first. There does seem to be an exception to every rule.