by For the MBJ
Published: July 26,2004
“Do you want fries with that?”
That is the single most powerful question that’s ever been asked in the history of the American economic society. It has created billions of dollars worth of revenue. It has spawned thousands of other up-selling questions in the same industry. Everything from super-sizing to biggie (which usually matches the stomach of the person ordering them).
Every person reading this column has been asked the question “Do you want fries with that?” and has answered in the affirmative. (Some more than others.)
I have no idea who created that question. But that question is not just an example. It’s a lesson. A multifaceted lesson.
1. It’s a closing question.
2. It’s an up-sell question.
3. It’s an easy question to teach anyone to ask.
4. It’s a nonabrasive question.
5. It’s an easy question to say “yes” to.
6. It’s a money question.
6.5 It works.
McDonald’s has been asking that question in one form or another for more than 20 years. They have learned the power of u- selling or add-on. They have a tactical advantage when asking this question because the people they are asking are hungry. It’s the perfect time to ask the question.
At a restaurant, your server will come by after you’ve finished your entrée and ask if you want dessert. Most people say “no” because they are full. The question is correct, but the timing could not be worse.
And so the object of asking a great question is not simply asking the question, it’s asking the right question at the right time.
Which brings me to my point. I’m hungry. Not really, but that was pretty funny. My point is, most salespeople ask the wrong questions, or they ask the right questions at the wrong time. The science of questioning is the heart of the sale.
How critical are questions? The first personal (rapport) question sets the tone for the meeting, and the first business question sets the tone for the sale. That’s critical.
And the benefits of asking the right questions? Now, that’s a good question.
Here are 9.5 benefits to make sales by:
1. Qualify the buyer.
2. Establish rapport.
3. Create prospect disparity.
4. Eliminate or differentiate from the competition.
5. Build credibility.
6. Know the customer and her business.
7. Identify needs.
8. Find hot buttons.
9. Get personal information.
9.5 Close the sale.
All these answers come from asking the right questions.
So, what’s a power question? A question about the prospect that makes him or her stop and think and answer in terms of you.
“Do you want fries with that?” is not just a power question. It’s a powerful question. And now that you know that, my challenge to you is, what’s yours? What questions are you asking that will differentiate you from your competition?
What questions are you asking that will make your customer consider new information? What questions are you asking that will make you look like you have prepared for the sales call? What questions are you asking that will make you appear to be an expert in your field? What questions are you asking that will make your prospective customer, your probably purchaser, have confidence in you and want to buy from you?
Now that I’ve put you in a corner, and you realize that your questions are somewhere between horrible and lousy, let me share a few answers that will help you build your arsenal of power questions.
1. Stop asking questions in terms of you and start asking questions in terms of your customer. Questions like “Who are you using right now?” and “How much are you paying?” and “Can I bid on that?” are questions in terms of you. Ask questions so the customer can talk about his or her experience. Focus on questions that will show how the customer will profit or produce more.
2. Stop asking stupid questions that the customer already knows the answers to. Instead of asking “Tell me a little bit more about your business,” a smarter version of that would be “Tell me how you got started in this business.”
3. Stop asking sales questions and start asking consulting questions. Instead of saying “If I can deliver by the 14th will you take it?” start asking “When would you like to begin producing more?” or “When would you like our profit to kick in?”
3.5 Ask questions that build a relationship instead of promoting a transaction. Short-term salespeople are concerned with delivery dates and commissions. Long-term salespeople are interested in seamless delivery, service follow-up, reorders and referrals. (Referrals by earning, not asking.)
This is not hard sell — it’s heart sell. Good questions get to the heart of the problem or the need very quickly, and the buyer doesn’t feel like he or she is being pushed. Use the questioning process early and often.
If you’re doing most of the talking and the prospect is not, you’re boring the prospect and losing the sale. Questions are the difference between SALE and NO SALE. And the best part is-you make your own difference.
If asked the question “Do you want fries with that?” when you’re hungry, I dare you to say “no.” You see, the challenge is to convert that power, and talk to your customers when they’re hungry.
Free GITBIT: I have prepared a list of lead-in phrases for power questions. All you have to do is fill in your information. It’s yours free by going to www.gitomer.com, register of you’re a first-time user, and enter the words POWER QUESTIONS in the GitBit box.
Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail
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