Using questions effectively in a retail sales presentation can be a powerful tool to engage customers and guide them toward purchasing decisions. But there is more than one type of question.
I’ll cover the different types of questions you can use in your sales presentation and how to effectively ask good questions while also providing examples of bad ones to avoid.
Here are a few examples of types of questions you can use in a sales presentation, each serving a different purpose:
- Open-ended questions: These are not designed to be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” and encourage the customer to share more information about their needs and preferences. For example, “What’s your project today, “What are you looking for in a new TV?” or “Can you tell me more about your patio setup?” Open-ended questions help you gather important information about the customer and tailor your sales pitch to their specific needs. Those questions invite the customer to talk; when they do, you can easily see what they are dealing with and suggest additional items.
- Clarifying questions: These help you better understand the customer’s needs and concerns. For example, “I’m sorry, could you clarify what you mean by ‘good picture quality’? What are you looking for in that regard?” Clarifying questions help you avoid misunderstandings at the end of the sale and ensure that you are meeting the customer’s needs. To ask such questions, you need to be actively listening so you can be in the moment when something seems unclear.
- Leading questions: These are questions that guide the customer toward a particular answer or decision. For example, “Would you like to see a demonstration of how easy it is to set up this TV?” or “Would you prefer the black or silver model?” Leading questions can help guide the customer toward a purchase decision, but be careful not to be too pushy or manipulative. Tom Hopkins famously called them alternative of choice. By forcing the buyer to make a choice, you make the sale. That might have worked in the sixties, but not now. Most of us can tell and feel pressured when someone is trying to use “closing techniques” to lead us to a purchase.
Now let’s talk about how to ask these questions effectively. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Listen actively: Make sure to listen carefully to the customer’s responses and pay attention to their body language and tone of voice. This will help you understand their needs and concerns and tailor your questions accordingly to make the sale.
- Use open body language: Keep your body language open and friendly, and maintain good eye contact. That means hands on hips or relaxed to your side, never crossing the body. Your eyes should meet the customer’s at least every 10 seconds, or you’ll be seen as untrustworthy. Keeping your arms and body open will show the customer that you are genuinely interested in helping them and create a sense of trust.
- Avoid interrupting: Let the customer finish their thought before jumping in with a question. It is easy to let happen, but interrupting can seem rude or dismissive and damage the customer’s relationship. They could feel attacked or, worse, not heard. It is also perfectly OK to pause before answering. I’ve been known to bite my tongue when I could feel myself wanting to interrupt. Whatever works for you, but make sure they have finished speaking before you do.
- Be genuine: Make sure to ask questions because you genuinely want to know the customer’s needs and concerns, not just to move them closer to a sale. Customers can tell when you’re not sincere, which can turn them off.
What are some examples of good and bad questions used in a sales presentation?
Good questions to ask:
- “What changed in your life that brought you here today?” (open-ended)
- “I’m sorry, could you clarify what you mean by ‘easier’? (clarifying)
- “Would you like to set up an appointment when you have more time, or can we do it now?” (leading)
Bad questions to ask:
- “Don’t you think this couch feels much better?” (manipulative)
- “Why don’t you want to buy this mattress?” (confrontational)
- “Do you have the money to buy this suit?” (inappropriate)
I once had a buddy who couldn’t decide between two sofas, and when he said that to the salesperson, she replied, “What’s wrong with you? Are you sick or something?”
The Bottom Line
When you ask the right questions, you can help customers feel they matter and are heard.
Also, every response you get helps them clarify what they are looking for and guides you to point them to additional items.
The key to using questions effectively in a sales presentation is to be genuine, listen actively, and tailor your questions to the customer’s needs and concerns.
And you’ll find that when you build rapport with the person first, they will answer whatever question you ask with honesty.
Following these tips and avoiding bad questions can create a positive and productive retail sales conversation that helps guide the customer toward a purchase decision.
We are pleased to mention that the author Bob Phibbs aka the Retail Doctor (who has contributed to BRA with outstanding articles like this one and so many others that we have reposted over the past couple of years) has also contributed to BRA monetarily. We value his relevant retail insight and encourage you to learn more about his offerings by clicking on the following link to his website: www.retaildoc.com
– Doug Works, Executive Director BRA
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