Know The Answer Before You Ask The Question

If you learn nothing else about using sales questions, understand this:

“Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.”

Today we look at alternate of choice questions.  This is part 4 in our series on sales questions.  If you missed them, take a look at the first three articles:

Why, The Importance of Sales Questions – Part 1

Five Reasons Why You Need To Use Sales Questions – Part 2.”

Open-Ended Questions Give You The Information You Need To Make The Sale – Part 3

Alternate of Choice Questions

Alternate of choice questions allow you to direct a question based on the response you want. Having the prospect tell you no, is not a good thing. You want to phrase your questions so they don’t give the prospect the option to say NO.

Alternate of choice questions are this or that questions, not yes or no. A question where either answer leads you closer to closing the sale. Let me give you an example:

“John, would you like to have this delivery on Monday or would Tuesday be better?”

This is not a yes or no question. It’s an either or question. It’s an alternate of choice question. You can use alternate of choice questions best in three places:

  1. Alternate of Choice Question For Setting Appointments
  2. Alternate of Choice Test Close Questions
  3. Alternate of Choice Closing Questions

Alternate Of Choice Question For Setting An Appointment

One of the best uses of the alternate of choice question is in the appointment setting stage of the sales process.

Many salespeople loose control when setting appointments because they don’t lead prospect. When I say lead, I don’t mean this in a demining way. When you lead the prospect, you are helping them move forward in the sales process. Let me give you an example of a BAD question to use when attempting to set an appointment:

“Mr. Jones, when would be a good time to meet?”

This is an open-ended question. An open-ended question requires the prospect to think. There are two reasons why an open-ended question should not be used when you are trying to move the sales process forward:

  1. Open-ended questions give away control to the prospect
  2. Open-ended questions don’t lead the prospect in the direction you need to go

When you use an open-ended question, the prospect can come back with an answer that you may not want. Most of the time that would be something like:

“I’m really busy so give me a call back in a couple of weeks.”

That’s not what you wanted to hear. The prospect was given all the power. You used an open-ended question. You should give them a choice. When you do, most people will make a decision between the choices you have given them.

Rule #1 of appointment setting

You want to make the decision on when the appointment should take place. Only when you have decided the days and times you what for the appointment are you ready to ask the question.

Let’s say that you want to set your appointments for Mondays and Tuesdays. Now that you have decided when you want appointments, you are ready to ask an alternate of choice question to set the appointment.

“Mr. Jones, looking at my calendar, I will be visiting clients in your area on Monday and Tuesday. Which day would be best for you, Monday or Tuesday?”

They had two choices, Monday or Tuesday. This makes it easy for them and they don’t have to do a lot of thinking. Always use alternate of choice questions when setting appointments.

The Alternate Of Choice Test Close Questions

One of the biggest challenges most new salespeople face is when to close. I heard a disturbing number about closing. I heard that on over 75% of sales calls no close was attempted at all. That’s disturbing. If you are having trouble closing, start using more test closes. Using test closes allows the prospect to show you their level of interest in what you are offering. It shows they want to move forward. The buying decision is never based on that one magical close.

“The buying decision is always the sum total of a series of yesses.”

The more times a prospect says yes, the more likely they are to buy. The way you build on those minor yesses is by using alternate of choice close questions.

When using alternate of choice close questions for a test close, phrase the test close so the prospect has to reflect what will happen in the future. This mean when the prospect answers, they are thinking about how they will interact with the product after they own it.

“John, will you be the only person with administrative rights to the system or will you give these right to someone else?”

“Mary, will we need us to train your personnel on the system or will your training team take care of that?”

“Sharon, will you need us to provide you with toner and ink as a part of the service, or will you be making trips to the store to get it yourself?”

Can you see how this works? Think about a series of test closes that you can use with your offering and it will make the final close a lot easier.

Alternate Of Choice Close Questions

Alternate of choice close questions allow you to make the assumptive close. That means you are always assuming the prospect will say yes when you use them. On average you need to have five (5) closes ready when you move into the closing stage of the sales process. Why? Because most of the time the prospect will say no on your first four attempts. It’s a good idea to make your first close an alternate of choice close question.

Let me give you a BAD first close:

“Well Sally, what do you think?”

What’s wrong with that question? It’s an open-ended question. Never use an open-ended question in the close.

Let’s look as some GOOD first closes:

“Sally, we can set it up to have the system delivered on Thursday or Friday of next week, which works best for you?”

In this example, either answer Sally gives is fine. If they come back and say: “Wait a minute we haven’t made the decision to move on.” That’s ok. You got one no out of the way. Just ask a question to see what you missed and go for you next close. Here are a two more alternate of choice closes:

“Paul, would you like to have us include the unit for the Dayton office with this order, or will you add it latter?”

“Jan, we include the module on negotiation in this first training session or you can add it as a stand-alone. Which would you prefer?”

Alternate of choice close questions are fantastic as a first close. Take some time and write out some alternate of choice close questions you can use with your product or service.

Develop Your Alternate Of Choice Questions

Now that you have an understanding of how and when to use alternate of choice questions, start to develop a list of the ones you can use. Remember to think about how you will use the alternate of choice questions in the different parts of your presentation. You want different alternate of choice questions for:

  • Needs Analysis
  • Test Closes
  • The Close

I hope this information helps and in the next article we will be looking at tie down questions.

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