The Socratic System of Sales. The Customer Questionnaire.

The Socratic System of Sales. The Customer Questionnaire.

The Socratic System of Sales is a system that is based on using the questioning process to persuade a prospect to buy your service. In fact, it can be used to pre-qualify a prospect, and in doing so, save the salesperson time in establishing that the prospect is in fact qualified, and what is important in the buying process to that prospect.

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I should ask you, why are you reading this? Is closing and qualifying more prospects important to you? If so, read on.

The main complaint I hear about salespeople is that they don’t care about a prospect’s needs or issues. They “show up and throw up” as they say. It’s all about their product and service. True sales professionals speak less than the prospect, and ask excellent questions.

I am going to blog about many uses of the Socratic form of sales, but to introduce it I want to encourage you and your sales department to have a standard prospect questionnaire that is a required part of any sales process or presentation.

It’s important for your salesperson to understand the following.

  1. What is the number one issue the prospect has that you need to fix?
  2. What buying criteria will they use to make a decision?
  3. Does the prospect understand your company’s value as it relates to their problem?
    English: Graphical Representation of Public Sa...
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Here is a quick example of questions a business might ask every prospect, and the reason they ask it should be clear. Many of these may apply to your business.

  • How soon did you want this project completed?
  • How important is a detailed proposal showing all expenses and a bottom line price?
  • How important is it that the company you select have experience completing similar projects?
  • How important are recent references of people that had similar projects completed?
  • How important is it that you are able to speak directly to those references?
  • How important is the financial stability of the business you select?
  • How important is the insurance and licensing of the company you select?
  • How important is bottom line price in your decision?
  • How important are the billing arrangements the company offers?
  • What other areas will you look at to make your selection?

A salesperson should never address any of the answers until all the questions are asked.  If you take off on a tangent because they say a detailed proposal is very important, you may never get back to the other questions, in which you may have found out that the detailed proposal while being important, is not the hot button.  Take the time to walk through all the questions. It’s certainly okay to add a brief statement after a question, like, yes we find that true with many of our clients, and then move on.

You should build your questions around the strengths of your business. If you have only been in business 1 year, you don’t ask, how important is the number of years a company has been in business is. You ask. How important is it that the company you select has new ideas and is hungry for your business?

Oddly enough, many small businesses don’t use a questionnaire because they don’t want to hear the answers. They would rather have a “shot” at the business and ignore the reality their business doesn’t actually have a shot.

Once you finish the questions, you have a couple of choices to make.  You can address the main issues at this time (If this is a one call close) or you can briefly cover their main concerns, and then go into detail when you return with the actual proposal for work.

Your presentation or proposal needs to focus on the answers to the questions. If you have a canned presentation you send to every prospect, then you are losing out in sales conversions.

Start with these words…. Ms. Smith, let me tell you why our customers love our service.  Like you, they were looking for a business that had experience in servicing their industry. We have over 25 clients in similar industries, and have learned that it takes a very specific approach (go on about this unique and valuable approach).

Can you see the benefits of using a questionnaire with your prospects? Instead of selling them what you “think” they need or want, you can actually address what they feel they want and need.

Another value of a questionnaire is many businesses fight the “price” battle all the time.  A questionnaire will help you educate a prospect on your value. If used correctly, it will help you win business over the “cheap” competition, by having the prospect state and acknowledge that there are far more important issues than price.

Now if the prospect says the biggest issue is price, and you know you can not compete on that basis, then you have saved a lot of time by identifying this, and not moving into a proposal process.

There are so many examples of using the Socratic method of communication I will be blogging about later. It’s used in Marketing, Sales, H.R., P.R., as well as Education and may other fields   – because it works.

Sit down and write out the questions you should ask every prospect and then start using them! I am positive you will see a much better sales conversion rate, and have a better relationship with new clients or customers.

By Mike Bayes

If we can help you accelerate your sales contact us at www.salesjumpstart.net 

Who was Socrates? http://www.columbia.edu/itc/lithum/wong/Socrates.html

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Socratic System of Sales. The Customer Questionnaire.”

  1. Thanks for re-posting this very cogent article. Over the years failure to ASK the right questions to the right people and knowing how to Effectively Listen has been the weakness of most Sales personal NOT doing well.
    I have found that to be true with many audiences over the years.
    Your thoughts on why?
    Is is Poor training?

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