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To be or not to be – that is the question!

William Shakespeare wrote in the opening phrase of a soliloquy in the Nunnery Scene of Hamlet, “to be or not to be, that is the question.”  In this speech a despondent Prince Hamlet contemplates death and suicide while waiting for the love of his life Ophelia.

With the 400th Anniversary celebrations upon us of, many would argue, England’s finest playwright and poet, I felt that “it is high time” (Comedy of Errors) to focus on, what I would say, is the key ingredient of the sales process – that of asking questions in order to establish what a client needs and so how you the seller might be able to help your client.

Whilst we are not going to dwell on the life changing questions of death and suicide, that Hamlet is musing upon in his soliloquy, you would be committing sales suicide by not working to understand your client and their needs and so being able to provide them with a tailored solution.

So for a more literary sales blog this time here is your tour of a few of Shakespeare’s famous quotes as well as my Top Tips for uncovering client needs by asking relevant questions:

  • Preparation: “Nothing will come of nothing” (King Lear):

This is your first step before making a call or meeting with a client, researching the client’s website, thinking about the market they operate in and working out therefore what their needs might be and so what kind of questions to ask.  If you do nothing, with regards to research, you will get nothing –  including the results you will be aiming for.

  • Asking Open Questions: “Why then the world’s my oyster” (Merry Wives of Windsor):

The world will be your oyster if you concentrate on asking open questions, all of which will enable you to find out information, challenges and issues your client might be facing.  These start with Who, What, Where, When, Why, Which and How.  In the training courses that we run at Leapfrog improving your skills in how to ask open questions is a key component to improving your sales performance.

  • What happened in the past: “We have seen better days” (Timon of Athens):

In general, it is easier for customers to answer questions about events and issues that happened in the past rather than be able to predict what is going to happen in the future, so focus on asking questions that will give you insight into what has happened previously and then move to asking them what they would like to see change based on what happened in the past.

  • Branching: “Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast” (Romeo and Juliet):

Asking just one question on a particular issue may not give you all the information you need so make sure you keep going down that particular branch or theme of questions in order to really unearth the information you need and get to the nub of the issue.  Rushing the questioning process and trying to move on too fast will cause you to stumble and so have nothing of substance to hang your sales story onto when in the pitch part of the sales framework.

  • Genuine Curiosity: “Can such things be; And overcome us like a summer’s cloud, Without our special wonder” (Macbeth):

To be genuinely interested in the client’s business and what they are saying is vital so that you are not just mechanically asking questions.  Make sure you are really listening to their answers and not just focusing on what your next question is going to be.  Listening is as much a part of asking questions as the asking!

So as Shakespeare said in The Merry Wives of Windsor “as good luck would have it” using these questioning tips will definitely help ensure you don’t commit sales suicide and you will “bear a charmed life” (Macbeth). I hope you enjoyed the cultural references in this month’s blog.  Good luck and let me know how you get along!

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